One of the most exciting and definitely the most monumental come-backs this year is The Bevis Frond latest album White Numbers. This once very productive band lead by Nick Saloman published three records in ’87, and then an average of two per year until the new millennium. They returned in 2011 after seven years of silence with The Leaving of London, just to remind us that Saloman still has a lot to say. But this year’s White Numbers is a masterpiece.
Nick Saloman was known as a guy who could combine the loud guitars of punk, post-punk and underground rock with psychedelic sentiment of The Byrds and songwriting skills of the British pub rock era. In fact, it’s one of the best kept secrets that Saloman’s vocal is the best Roger McGuinn imitation since Tony Poole of the Starry Eyed And Laughing. I’m a huge fan of all those people and I making these comparisons it in the most heartfelt way. Saloman was great at this all the time, but on White Numbers, muse has struck him really well. Songs are wonderful love songs full of ambiguity and contrast that draws you in. It’s the excrement floating on the sea, makes it beautiful to me. The best known Bevis Frond song is by far Lights Are Changing which was also compiled on Children of Nuggets. On White Numbers, song This One is probably the most similar to Lights Are Changing.
Now I need to explain why this record is so monumental. First of all, the quality is strong and my attention was kept for the entire of 85 minutes of the regular run of this record. No editing needed, no losers. You read it right, it’s 85 minutes of rock’n’roll, but only for the part of the record with convential songs, all the verses, choruses and guitar shredding. Then, when you think it’s all over, there’s 45 minutes more of something that the band calls Homemade Traditional Electric Jam. Now, most bands would cut it out, and let’s be frank, most bands can’t pull a 45 minute jam without shooting themselves in the feet. Not the Bevis Frond! The Jam is full with interesting passages and it wraps up this really big record in a most perfect way. I can only think of one record that managed to do that so effectively. We had it last year on our year end list, Rich Hopkins album Buried Treasures.
How do you put 130 minutes of music on a vinyl LP? You need three records. So, the vinyl version spreads out that much, putting the long jam on the third LP and also splitting it in two down the middle. This is actually a helpful thing for that demanding jam since you can take a break and flip the record down half way through. It’s a British import here in the US, so the triple record is a bit pricey. It also suffers a bit from a mid frequency distortion and sibilance throughout the entire length, especially the first LP. This seems to be common on most modern pressings. So get a CD or files for this one if you care about the sound. If you like the big cover, photography on the front and behind is very interesting to study, so get an LP if you care about the cover art. It also comes equipped with a lyrics sheet, which is always a plus in my book.