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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Bonzo Dog Band: Anthropology: The Beast Within


1) Tent; 2) Busted; 3) I'm The Urban Spaceman I; 4) Mr. Slater's Parrot; 5) Canyons Of Your Mind (intro); 6) Can­yons Of Your Mind; 7) Canyons Of Your Mind I; 8) The Equestrian Statue; 9) Tragic Magic; 10) Quiet Talks And Summer Walks; 11) What Do You Do?; 12) Give Booze A Chance; 13) And 3/4; 14) National Beer; 15) Canyons Of Your Mind II; 16) Joke Shop Man; 17) A Wonderful Day Like Today; 18) Mr. Hyde In Me; 19) Look At Me, I'm Wonderful; 20) We Were Wrong; 21) Sofa Head; 22) By A Waterfall; 23) Boiled Ham Rhumba; 24) Intro; 25) The Monster Mash; 26) Humanoid Boogie; 27) I'm The Urban Spaceman II; 28) The Sound Of Music; 29) Little Sir Echo; 30) You Done My Brain In.

Save yourself the trouble, I guess. There is a rather disproportionate amount of various Bonzo Dog Band compilations on the market, some lightly peppered with otherwise unavailable goodies and some not at all — but there is no such thing as «a magic vault» for these guys, as this parti­cular collection of outtakes and rarities clearly shows. Released in 1998 and proclaiming to re­present «rehearsal material» from around 1967-68, Anthropology, out of its 30 tracks, has maybe 4 or 5 «true surprises» in stock for the casual Bonzo Dog fan (that is, if the word «casual» is at all applicable to any Bonzo Dog fan), and not all of them nice surprises at that.

In fact, only Stanshall's ʽMr. Hyde In Meʼ could probably pass for a valuable addition — a pretty hilarious impersonation of a guy's «sexual transformation», unfortunately a bit spoiled by some of those annoying high-pitched mock-doo-wop backing harmonies. The demented waltz of ʽLittle Sir Echoʼ is also silly-funny, although its major hook (the "hello! — hello!" echo in question) would eventually be borrowed for ʽMr. Slater's Parrotʼ and the rest discarded. And those who respect the Bonzos for their musical experimentation will probably want to be exposed to ʽSofa Headʼ, a fairly wild free-style romp through the world of jungle jazz, cosmic rock, and chime-led nursery rhymes, well in line with any typical bit of Doughnut-era material.

On the other hand, off-the-cuff novelty material like ʽGive Booze A Chanceʼ (yes, a very straight­forward parody of ʽGive Peace A Chanceʼ) is simply not funny, and only exists as a symbolic showcase for the Bonzos' already well-known «irreverence»; nor is it easy to get won over by half-baked piano exercises such as ʽBoiled Ham Rhumbaʼ, which honestly sounds like Neil Innes sitting down at the piano and nonsensically improvising for a couple of minutes. (On the AMG side, somebody supposed that this could be a parody on John Lennon — really? Does the re­viewer know something we don't know?).

Even so, all of these «new» songs are swept away by the ocean waves of all-too-familiar material, presented in alternative versions — as a rule, inferior ones either in arrangement, or in sound quality, or both. You do get to see how songs like ʽBustedʼ or ʽMr. Slater's Parrotʼ evolved, and no number of different versions of ʽUrban Spacemanʼ can be too huge for such a jolly tune, but on the whole, there is little to discuss unless one has really, truly, loyally worn out his faithful copies of the original studio albums. Which, not coincidentally, could also be said about the Beatles' Anthologies — which, not coincidentally, must have served as the obvious model for this CD. Indeed — back in 1967-69, the Bonzos were like the Beatles' comic twins (no wonder the two had a bit of a symbiotic relationship at the height of the flower power era), so it comes as no surprise that they would choose this particular timing, just two years since the wrapping-up of the Anthology project, to review the raw edges of their own career. However, that is the fate of all comical twins — their sketches and leftovers inevitably pale in comparison with their more serious brethren. Besides, these are not even sketches, more like «rehearsal versions» indeed: too close to the final variants to become interesting — too different from the final variants to become «alternatively perfect». In other words, for completists only.

1 comment:

  1. "Which, not coincidentally, could also be said about the Beatles' Anthologies — which, not coincidentally, must have served as the obvious model for this CD."
    Also not a coincidence that Neil Innes had released Archaeology for his other Comic Fab Four, the Rutles, just a year after.