THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND: NEXT (1973)
The loony carnival continues on Next, an album that stretches the capacities of the band to the limit — in fact, to the limit of becoming offensive, as not a few people even today express genuine indignation at a song whose chorus goes 'Ain't nothing like a gang bang to blow your blues away'. Well, what do you know: offensive for sure, but who could argue with the truth of it?
Next is not afraid to take risks, not only lyrical, but plenty of musical ones as well. There's only seven tracks, one of them multi-part, one — a lengthy, slow-developing art-rock romp, and the rest are an even wilder mish-mash of styles than Framed; but this is to be expected from the sort of meaningless, but exciting and titillating "rock cabaret" that Harvey and the gang are going for. The question is, does it excite enough? Under the musical leadership of Cleminson, it certainly does, enough for it to be completely unnecessary to make sense of it all.
Then, come to think of it, there is a general sensible thread running through the whole thing: sex, sex, sex, sleaze, and sex again. It is beyond any reasonable doubt that Bon Scott, in his stage and studio persona, must have been hugely influenced by the
Once all these spirits have taken their places, I cannot see how an album like Next could fail to be one of glam-rock's quintessential statements, a record that perfectly holds its own alongside Electric Warrior or even Ziggy Stardust. Speaking of the latter, one exact thing Bowie and Harvey had in common was an adoration for Jacques Brel; the title track is a tango arrangement of the latter's 'Au Suivant', with an excellent translation/reinterpretation of the lyrics and perfect placement — it cuts across the middle of the record, interrupting the schizophrenic spirit dance for a few minutes of intelligent pause, as if the tired actors, clowns, and mimes took their masks off to catch their breath. Allowed to wallow in their misery a little while. Then it's show time again, and Harvey's/Brel's promise — 'I'll do anything to get out of life, to survive, not ever to be next!' — is cut short as the masks are up to the ominous wah-wah intro to 'Vambo'.
Of course, Next, like all
Last hurrah should go to Cleminson, who continues honing his musical skills — the guitar playing on 'Vambo Marble Eye' and 'Faith Healer' is exceptional, and his tango riffage in unison with the piano on 'Next' is a perfect desperate foil for Harvey's perfect desperate singing. There is a great video of a performance of 'Next' from the Old Grey Whistle Test with Zal, in his trademark Pierrot makeup that he always donned at the band's live performances, not only plays, but mimes along to Alex's singing: the two make quite a lovely couple. Thumbs up on all the tracks, unanimously agreed upon by the heart and brain departments alike.