Friday, June 21, 2024

Bison Hip - Welcome To The Rest Of Your Life

Strong songs, smart arrangements, quality playing. What’s not to like?
A few weeks back I did a Quickies piece doubling up reviews of the new albums by Gun and FM, and if I’d listened to this second album by Glasgow band Bison Hip at that point it could have slotted very neatly into that company.  But you know what?  Welcome To The Rest Of Your Life deserves its own moment in the sun.
Bison Hip aren’t really an out and out blues-rock outfit.  They’re more of a melodic rock band with bluesy tendencies.  Some of the best songs here, like ‘The Bullfighter’, ‘Blues For The Unforgiven’, and closer ‘Take It Out On Me’, carry significant echoes of Aynsley Lister – on one of his good days.
Bison Hip - Welcome to the great outdoors!

‘The Bullfighter’ is an atmospheric slowie, with a breathy vocal from Paul Sloway that’s right in his sweet spot, and I’m guessing that he’s responsible for most of the excellent backing vocals and harmonies here and elsewhere.  There are ripples of piano from Steven Radziwonik, foreshadowing a dappling solo, and there’s a dynamic, expansive guitar solo from John Gilmour Smith too, plus some eddying guitar notes on the fade-out that are typical of the little flourishes they add here and there to perk up your ears.  Oh yeah, and if the lyrics aren’t Dylan-profound they still – and this applies across the piece - steer clear of hackneyed rock humdrum.
‘Blues For The Unforgiven’ is a slow blues with an ear-catching guitar motif, while Sloway’s vocal catches the mood perfectly.  Fuzzy guitar chords and tinkling piano fills interleave with the melody to pique yer attention, along with occasional bursts of more energetic drums from Malcolm Button.  There’s another subtle, beautifully toned solo from Smith, backed up by some music box keys – hell, basically the whole thing hangs together like a very expensive bottle of red wine.  And ‘Take It Out On Me’ rounds things off in similar fashion, from its solemn organ intro, through its voice-and-piano balladic main course, with neat backing vox interjections along the way, to Smith’s exquisitely melodic solo, niftily complemented by Graeme Carswell’s bass, with a peppery guitar break to top it off.
There are different blues leanings on a couple of other tracks too.  ‘The Money’ is a strolling, rolling thing, with slow pulsing bass from Carswell and relaxed, warm piano from Radziwonik, and a considered, well delivered vocal from Sloway.  Meanwhile ‘Grateful’ is a slow and steady back porch blues that pairs a rootsy vocal with simple blues strumming from Smith, and latterly adds some gently wheezing harp for extra blues bonus marks.  It’s a down-home affair that makes for a good contrast with the more elaborate arrangements elsewhere.
But the Hipsters also convince when they pick things up a bit.  ‘Surrender’ is mid-tempo, with a stop-start riff, a swinging rhythm augmented by some crafty drum fills from Button, en route to a nifty tumbling bridge that triggers a stinging solo from Smith.  ‘Parasite’ is more uptempo, with tub-thumping drums, a staircase-ascending riff, some hurdy-gurdy keys, and thrumming, wriggling bass from Carswell.  It’s got dynamics, good harmonies, and a suitably mosquito-buzzing guitar break.  ‘Don’t Follow Me Down’ has a bit more grit, with tough chords complemented by a restrained guitar figure, while Sloway’s vocal gets more agitated – not exactly his comfort zone, but he still gets by well enough.
More lightweight – though it’s not really a criticism – is  the soul-swinging ‘Still Something Left In The Tank’, with another strong hook, a slick arrangement showing off jazz-lite keys and savvy drum placement, and a smart lyric built around the lines “Feel good, or at least a little better / Got up on the right side of the bed”.
To be blunt, Welcome To The Rest Of Your Life does not sound like the haphazard work of a bunch of semi-pro wannabes – and believe me, I’ve heard some.  It sounds like a band of experienced musos who have set the bar high, and got themselves into a damn good groove. I’m impressed.  Give it a listen – you could be too.
Welcome To The Rest Of Your Life is out now, and can be ordered here.

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