Well, this is an unexpected pleasure. Until this album fell into my lap, I knew two things about Big Boy Bloater: he hosts a blues show on Team Rock Radio; and I thought his nom de plume sounded – well, kind of dumb. But pardon my ignorance, because with this album yer man Bloater has managed to produce something refreshingly different.
At its core Luxury Hobo is old-fashioned R’n’B, with a twist of 70s pub rock thrown into the mix. But rather than echoing Feelgood, the initial impression is of something more akin to George Thorogood and the Destroyers in Half A Boy Half A Man mode – an album whose title track was penned by none other than pub rocker Nick Lowe.
|Big Boy Bloater scans the horizon in search of a recovery vehicle|
Opening track ‘Devils And Angels’ announces itself with a swirl of fairground organ from Dan Edwards, over a riff reminiscent of Quo’s ‘Caroline’. It’s one of a couple of tracks that are a tad under-developed, but it’s a gutsy and energetic blast of boogie all the same. Bloater’s voice could maybe do with some of the rough edges being sandpapered off - but what the hell, this is raw R’n’B not opera.
Credit is due for a bucketful of originality in the lyric department though. You’ll wait in vain for anything of the “baby done left me” or “woke up this morning” variety on this collection. Instead the Bloat (as I dare say he’s known to his friends) treats us to a range of funny, off-kilter tales such as the B-Movie stomp of ‘It Came Outta The Swamp’, with its stinging slide work, and the cartoon-ish Futurama of ‘Robot Girlfriend’.
There’s a bit more going on here than just some idle laughs though. Bloater has suggested that the material on Luxury Hobo emerged partly as a response to a bout of depression a couple of years back, and there’s a sense of alienation about a number of the tracks, whether in the reaction of the townsfolk in ‘. . . Swamp’, or the user-mentality of the guy with the robot girlfriend.
The atmosphere is more unsettling still in ‘I Got The Feeling Someone’s Watching Me’, its air of paranoia underlined by an eerie arrangement that evokes French ‘tango-musette’, of all things. ‘Luxury Hobo Blues’, meanwhile, finds Bloater asking why, in the midst of a more than acceptable lifestyle, “still everyday I got to medicate my brain”. As an essay in plenty not being enough it’s a darn sight more original than Chickenfoot’s ‘Dubai Blues’ for example, which is essentially just an enjoyable hard rock reworking of ‘I Ain’t Got You’.
And that air of originality emerges as one of the strengths of the album, and not just in the lyrics. The foundations may be R’n’B, but Bloater also samples other styles in pleasingly wonky fashion, rather like Bath’s indie-soul mob The Heavy.
Still, Bloater and his band The Limits can also do it (fairly) straight, as on the soulful take on differences among friends that is ‘All Things Considered’, and the good time pub rock of the acidly witty closing track ‘Not Cool Man’. The end result is an album with a down-and-dirty charm that will doubtless have plenty punters giving it a thumbs up.
Luxury Hobo is released on 26 February 2016.