Who are the BMX BANDITS? Where did this group come from, who, after more than 20 years together, have been talked about by people like TEENAGE FANCLUB’s Norman Blake (who was in the group in its beginning), Liam Gallagher or Kurt Cobain? Who are the people responsible for this band who have had members of THE VASELINES, TEENAGE FANCLUB and THE SOUP DRAGONS, among others, in its midst? Where was this group, with fans not only in Europe and North America, but also in Japan and the rest of Asia, born? How have they been able to release music on mythic labels like Creation Records, 53rd & 3rd or Vinyl Japan, among many others? Who is this Duglas T Stewart whose name we’ve also seen on the albums of Alex Chilton, Chip Taylor, Stevie Jackson, Eugene Kelly, Francis McDonald and Ally Kerr, and who also produces his own albums? The way this Scottish band has given birth to its albums (the first in 1985), completely outside of the music industry’s paradigms, spreading its melodic seeds through half a world’s worth of record labels in every format imaginable (the single or the EP is a focus for them), has gained them a cult status, which has only been consolidated by the incredible songs they have been giving us throughout their career; songs with a clear affinity for hyper-melodic pop, strongly influenced by people like Brian Wilson, Ennio Morricone and Serge Gainsbourg.
Elefant has been a stop in their passionate trajectory before (that now out of print “C86 and More”, their collaboration on “Snowstorm”, the tribute to GALAXIE 500, that 7” titled “Help Me Somebody”, recently their “The BMX Love EP”...) and since it couldn’t be any other way, Elefant continues to be a significant stop for them. “The Rise & Fall of BMX BANDITS” is no normal disc. Nor is it a greatest hits compilation. Did you really think Duglas would follow the canon of the conventional and foreseeable? Their Nth album is a recovery of songs chosen by Stewart himself throughout his own career, some of which are out of print, hard to find B sides of singles, others which were rerecorded for the occasion, some which were previously unreleased (like that Tom Waits version from 1997!), and still other great achievements from their catalogue, recoveries of songs published on mythic labels like Vinyl Japan (NORTHERN PICTURE LIBRARY, FAT TULIPS, THE HIT PARADE, MONOCHROME SET...), etc... So, what is the reason, the concept behind this “compilation” (we can call it that)? The music, Duglas’ exalted ability for pop. Should there be another reason? The thing is, it is impossible to talk about the album without talking about each one of the 23 songs:
--“E102”. The year it was recorded, 1986, rings out in every second of this song, taken from a single released on Stephen Pastel’s mythic label 53rd & 3rd (THE VASELINES, TALULAH GOSH, BEAT HAPPENING, THE SHOP ASSISTANTS...). Joy, hope, youth and love ring out as well, and above all so do the unrepeatable choruses: “I’m so happy that love has come around...”
“Disco Girl”. This unreleased version, recorded last year, of the song from their mythic “C86” (that Elefant re-released in the early nineties) gives the song extra energy and force that make it, if it’s possible, even more irresistible.
“Your Class” is another song recovered from “C86” (and which Elefant also include on the “Montecarlo” compilation) and another of those sonic high points of Duglas T. Stewart, who has influenced people as unique as F.M. Cornog (EAST RIVER PIPE).
“I Can Wait Forever” is extracted from that EP dedicated to love, which Elefant released in a delicious white vinyl version this past year for the whole world to enjoy. With influences from Julie Andrews and Olivia Newton-John, but most of all, from Burt Bacharach, this song is a new demonstration of Duglas’ all-terrain capacity for pop, which people like Nick Garrie have enjoyed.
“Right Across the Street”. Rescued from that incredible album (yes, C86) that the Click label released in 1989 and where you can clearly see why Norman Blake was a member of BMX BANDITS before he began TEENAGE FANCLUB.
“Stardate” is another gem recovered from “Figure EP”, released in 1987, on the 53rd and 3rd label again. The song evokes the love for a girl from another world.
“Come Clean” is taken from “Star Wars” (1991) and is another demonstration of luminous and addictive pop like we can only find on BMX Bandits albums.
“Extraordinary” is also one of the best songs from “Star Wars”, but it falls into the more fifties part of Duglas’ songwriting, which later, bands like THE SCHOOL or CAMERA OBSCURA have followed.
We begin to move forward in time to rescue “Baby Loves Lovin'” (from the album “Teenster”, from 1999), an incredible demonstration of pop that closes in on what, in their moment, people like THE BYRDS or LOVIN’ SPOONFUL venerated, with their unmistakable 12-string guitar.
“Let Mother Nature Be Your Guide” from the marvelous and unrepeatable “C86”, or one of the songs Duglas wrote that TEENAGE FANCLUB and THE WEDDING PRESENT so adore.
“Rimbaud & Me”, another song from “C86”, the most represented album in this strange compilation, and which shows how our Scottish friend is a genius when it comes to immediate melodies, and in this case, from a Brazilian perspective, with that mix of bossa and pop that drives us crazy.
“Life Goes On”, another song from “Star Wars”, is a composition that concisely and passionately sums up a breakup, which is portrayed through the fleetingness of a song. But like the song, there’s much more there than it might first seem: “All that will be left of our love is this song”.
“Hey Little Tomboy” is a song from “Frankenstein” (1996), the album Duglas released solo, and a demonstration of one of his greatest obsessions: Brian Wilson, revised with synthesizers and keyboards. The song was released on the THE BEACH BOYS’ “M.I.U. Album”.
“The Day Before Tomorrow” is one of the disc’s previously unreleased tracks, also recorded in some of the sessions from 2008, and the original version was released as a 12” in 1986 on the 53rd & 3rd label.
“Stupid”, taken as is from “Frankenstein”, is a new approach to the elegance, subtlety and sophistication of Burt Bacharach. Had we already mentioned our friend’s incredible versatility?
“I Wanna Fall In Love” is an unreleased version, recorded in 1996, of a song that was released that same year on the “Theme Park” album on the Creation label (OASIS, PRIMAL SCREAM, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TEENAGE FANCLUB, FELT…). This revisioning adds light (if more were possible) to this example of the best of Scottish pop.
“Whirlpool” was released in 1995 as a single (there’s another version on C86 Plus”) and as such is one of the hard to find gems included on this new album.
“Tugboat”, recorded with ANGEL CORPUS CHRISTI, is another one of those songs that Elefant’s fans will know, since it was released on “Snowstorm”, the GALAXIE 500 tribute album that we released in 1996. A pleasure and nothing less than precious.
“Students Of Life”, another song fished from “Star Wars”, closes in on the most country-esque sound of BMX BANDITS, and another unforgettable chorus: “Students of life, students of love”.
“Help Me, Somebody” is taken from the completely sold-out out of print single that Elefant released in 1997, and this time Duglas puts rock ‘n roll in the pop blender, to make another incomparable hit.
“Intermission (Little Seashell Ear)”: an unreleased piece, in which they try to recreate the sound of a conch shell for 29 seconds.
“Love's Sweet Music”, another of the previously unreleased items on the disc and, curiously, one of the most melancholic songs that can be found on this “The Rise & Fall of BMX BANDITS”.
One last previously unreleased version, rescued from some sessions from 1997: “I Don't Wanna Grow Up”, one of Tom Waits most fun songs and a clear statement of intentions, that fits like a glove for an artist whose music shines like a young, light, optimistic spirit, impervious to the passing of time and the changing styles.
2. Disco girl [2008 Version]
3. Your class
4. I can wait forever
5. Right across the street
7. Come clean
9. Baby loves lovin'
10. Let mother nature be your guide
11. Rimbaud & me
12. Life goes on
13. Hey little Tomboy
14. The day before tomorrow [2008 Version]
16. I wanna fall in love [Version 2]
17. Whirlpool [1995 Version]
18. Tugboat (with Angel Corpus Christ)
19. Students of life
20. Help me, somebody
21. Intermission [Little seashell ear]
22. Love's sweet music
23. I don't wanna grow up