THE BATS: COUCHMASTER (1995)
1) Outside; 2) Afternoon In Bed; 3) Around You Like Snow; 4) Work It Out; 5) Train; 6) Land 'O' Lakes; 7) Chain Home Low; 8) Supernova; 9) Shoeshine; 10) Crow Song; 11) Smorgasboard; 12) Knowledge Is Power; 13) It's Happening To You; 14) Lost Weekend; 15) For The Ride; 16) Out Of Bounds; 17) Down To Me.
Do not let yourself be scared by the huge number of individual tracks — several represent brief instrumental interludes, consisting either of atmospheric noise (ʽOutsideʼ) or simple rhythmic drones (ʽSmorgasboardʼ), inserted for the sake of... God only knows what. If you ask me, the idea of inserting little fluffy «links» in between The Bats' songs, many, if not most, of which are fairly little and perfectly fluffy themselves, is odd. Then again, odd ideas on Bats' albums are so rare anyway that this one at least makes Couchmaster stand out in some way.
Actually, there is a better way. The relative quality of a Bats album is practically always measurable by counting out how many memorable / evocative guitar lines and catchy singalong vocal hooks they offer the listener, and on that scale Couchmaster registers impressively high; at least, my gut feeling tells me that it is an improvement over Silverbeet. Brief isolated impressions of some of the better songs are as follows:
ʽAfternoon In Bedʼ — nice «murmured» guitar line, quite adaptable to the idea of spending an afternoon in bed. Not exactly ʽI'm Only Sleepingʼ-quality (too fluffy and friendly, almost inviting, and who the heck would really invite anybody else to their bed in the afternoon?). ʽWork It Outʼ — another fine line, either «weeping» or buzzing around you like a harmless mosquito; leave it to The Bats to synthesize that «sadness-lite» flavor, not strong enough to kill yourself but long enough to guzzle a pint. ʽLand O' Lakesʼ — no particularly strong guitar parts, but one of those clever choruses that are at once singalong-style / anthemic and dreamy / personal. ʽShoeshineʼ — subtly engineered piece of melancholic dream-pop; excellent idea to put Kaye Woodward on vocals, and an exquisite swirling guitar flourish on top of everything. ʽIt's Happening To Youʼ — from somewhere deep in the woods, comes a lilting guitar tone of sheer utmost beauty; if only its voice were a little louder and cleaner! ʽFor The Rideʼ — a little faster and angrier than everything else, with a phased / wah-wah guitar accompaniment that puts «psychedelia» ahead of «folk» for the first time in this band's career, so it seems. ʽOut Of Boundsʼ — best guitar melody on the album, no doubt about it; this one just seems specifically designed for situations when you are alone, depressed, and are in special need of that one friendly pat on the shoulder to chuck you out of that needless silly state.
I think this is pretty much all that is necessary to convince myself that they took a little extra care this time around in the songwriting department, and came out with probably the best swan song they could have theoretically come up with. Swan song, that is, because Couchmaster turned out to be the last Bats album in a decade, after which they all went their separate ways to raise their separate families — but not before offering this very fair deal for their fans, because the overall quantity of pleasant melodic ideas captured here is, I think, several times as high as on The Law Of Things; and offering one tightly-packed album in ten years is certainly preferable to offering five with one memorable spot per record. Hence, a grateful thumbs up for a particularly moody way of saying goodbye.
Check "Couchmaster" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Couchmaster" (MP3) on Amazon