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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band: Pour L'Amour Des Chiens


1) Pour L'Amour Des Chiens; 2) Let's All Go To Mary's House; 3) Hawkeye The Gnu; 4) Making Faces At The Man In The Moon; 5) Fiasco; 6) Purple Sprouting Broccoli; 7) Old Tige; 8) Wire People; 9) Salmon Proust; 10) Demo­cracy; 11) I Predict A Riot; 12) Scarlet Ribbons; 13) Paws; 14) And We're Back; 15) Stadium Love; 16) Mornington Crescent; 17) L'Essence D'Hooligan; 18) Early Morning Train; 19) My Friends Outside; 20) For The Benefit Of Mankind; 21) Beautiful People; 22) Ego Warriors; 23) Cockadoodle Tato; 24) Tiptoe Through The Tulips; 25) Sweet Memories; 26) Sudoku Forecast; 27) Now You're Asleep; 28) Jean Baudrillard.

A proper reunion of the (mostly) original Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. In 2007. No Viv Stanshall to come down from the sky, even if only for a moment, but most of the rest somehow cuddled together. Do you really want to hear that? A relic so inextricably associated with the Sixties. It is certainly one thing to see a brief glimpse of them in a nostalgia-oriented show, but to actually subject ourselves to new material from these guys, in the iPhone and YouTube age and all? Who in his right mind would want to do that, unless out of some twisted understanding of «pity»?

Apparently, nobody did: the album was barely noted upon release, and you can count the online-available reactions to it on the fingers of both hands, be it professional critical reviews or average music fan assessments — and the reaction, mostly, was as expected: «kinda fun, but why should this ever exist in this age?» And from a purely logical standpoint, this is absolutely correct: it should not. Fortunately, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band never operated on Aristotelian logic, or else they wouldn't have any right to the title of «Doo-Dah».

Once logic has been politely asked out the door, Pour L'Amour Des Chiens is an excellent album — nostalgic, futuristic, whatever, it is bursting with all sorts of ideas, some good, some bad, some exquisitely tasteful, some disgustingly (or delightfully) distasteful, and all of them sounding as if The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band never really went away. Well, they might have climbed into a refrigerator for a while, but it's not even as if they were frozen unconscious all that time: at the very least, they know who Gary Numan is.

For the most part, the record relies on musical (and comical) structures and gimmicks that do not, indeed, transgress the human experience accumulated by around 1969. For the most part, yes — but that does not prevent them from certain intentional anachronisms. For instance, around the middle of the album there is a track called ʽPawsʼ, in which you are advocated to press the pause button on your player and go have a snack or something, since this is the way LP records were designed in the 1960s. However, what they do not warn you about is that back in the 1960s, few, if any, record sides could run for about 32-35 minutes — whereas Pour L'Amour Des Chiens makes full use of the CD format, running for over 70 minutes, almost enough for a double LP, come to think of it, and certainly the most sprawling record in the entire life of the Bonzos.

Fortunately, with not a single track running over five minutes, and lots of small spoken-word, faux-commercial, and general-goofy interludes, the album does not truly seem overlong — not to mention that, in solid Bonzo tradition, the amount of different styles is truly staggering. Only twice do they seriously venture outside the comfy zone of «the Sixties and everything beyond that back in time»: ʽMy Friends Outsideʼ is a rather sneery send-up of artsy synth-pop (the one with the explicit Gary Numan references and a hilarious discussion on the emotional implications of various electronic effects at the end), and the ʽLegsʼ Larry Smith spotlight number ʽSweet Memo­riesʼ, despite being one of the album's most explicit nostalgia-oriented song, is «perversely» arranged as a late Seventies disco dance number — indeed, it would be too boring for these guys to set their memories to a soundtrack from the same time as those memories, wouldn't it?

Wait, actually, I'm wrong: another all-too obvious piece of evidence for the Bonzos knowing what time of day it is is their cover of the Kaiser Chiefs' ʽI Predict A Riotʼ; it's just that the Kaiser Chiefs themselves are such a blatantly retro-looking band that, in a way, it is not quite clear who exactly is covering who. Well, so the Bonzos, if my memory serves me right, did not actually try their hand at straightforward garage rock back in 1967-69, but they do now, and do it in their expected manner, taking the word «riot» a little too literally and then taking a look at what fol­lows (no spoilers). In any case, a good choice and yet another bit of success.

Highlights on the whole are too numerous to mention everything. Just a few random quick notes, then. ʽLet's All Go To Mary's Houseʼ is a piece of crackling vaudeville that belongs equally well in 1925 and on Gorilla. ʽPurple Sprouting Broccoliʼ gives us a merry banjo-led country spoof; additionally, ʽOld Tigeʼ then kicks the bucket even further by covering an old Jim Reeves tune (one of those sentimental «me and my dog» narratives) and winding its spoken narrative up to truly absurdist highs. ʽWire Peopleʼ should be read "why are people..." and included in a Sesame Street episode. On ʽDemocracyʼ, Neil Innes fumbles around with a little reggae and offers a little bit of supposedly-serious insight in the issue of human rights. And my personal favorite at the moment is probably ʽEgo Warriorsʼ, which not only rocks harder than everything else, but also probably makes the most biting — nay, the most annihilating — lyrical point of all (which point can be already well seen from the title, but do check it out for the rest of the words).

The album seems to be dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Jean Baudrillard, who gets namechecked in a French version of the opening ditty — appropriately so, considering the Bonzos' post-structuralist pedigree: whatever nasty counter-arguments one might fling at the theoretical skeleton of post-modernism, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band is one of its happy side effects, and Pour L'Amour Des Chiens, with its boatload of catchy, funny, inventive tunes, is quite a happy side effect of the Bonzos. A comeback? As far as eternity is concerned, the mighty Doo-Dah has never really gone away, so the term hardly applies. In fact, new guests like Stephen Fry (who plays a fully appropriate Jeeves-type role on ʽHawkeye The Gnuʼ) carry on the old spirit in full understanding, so, apparently, as long as Great Britain, humor, intellect, and a lack of fear of offending too many people still exist, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band still has a future. Try to find the album if you can — a timeless delight, really. Thumbs up.

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