February 14th 1983; Toronto, Ontario Canada was in the midst of a cold snap, usual for the time of the year, but inside the venerable concert hall, Massey Hall, it was red hot. The force-major that was the celtic/soul/rock of Dexy's Midnight Runners had hit the stage running and didn't stop for two hours. In some ways, it remains to this day one of the most powerful, and passionate shows of live music that I've seen.
After that tour, and I think maybe another album, Dexy's seemed to fade away, or at least we didn't hear about them as much over here on this side of the Atlantic. We also never heard that much about a project that some former Midnight Runners put together with members of other British pop groups called The Bureau that surfaced briefly in the early eighties. Ironically their album was released over here and in Australia, but never in Britain and the band wound down after a couple of tours.
Fast forward to 2002 and a desire to recreate some of that bedlam resulted in the re-release of the original Bureau album, The Bureau, in 2005 and some touring by the newly reformed band. Now, while some people might have been content to rest on the laurels of nostalgia, these guys haven't been. With almost the entire band back together, only the drummer was unable to work himself free of current commitments, they made the decision to risk doing a brand new recording of original tunes. I say risk because all of them had settled into gigs on one side of the Atlantic or the other and reviving a project that the record companies had left to wither on the vine the first time around offered no guarantees of return on their time and money.
For those of you, like me, who occasionally wonder if there will ever be bands again that can recapture some of the intensity and passion that made punk worth listening to, allow me to introduce you to 2008's version of The Bureau and their new CD, …and another thing. Although its not slated for an official release until October 6th/08, you can order the disc through the band's web-site. The price of $20.00 American includes the shipping and handling to get it from England to your mail-box, so it's as good as deal as you'll get from any on-line retailer, especially considering the distance its having to travel.
What are you going to receive for your twenty hard earned dollars? Only twelve of the best funk/soul/rock and roll tracks you'll have heard since the heyday of Sly and The Family Stone. I guess you could be forgiven if you think I'm exaggerating, and the only way to know will be to check them out for yourself now won't it. However, I don't think I've had a disc of new music rock me back on my heels in amazement like this one did since I know when.
First off, all the tracks are originals written for this disc save one, "Keaton's Walk" which had been languishing on tape in that mysterious place where recordings abide when they are lost and forgotten since the band laid it down in 1984. Secondly, as individuals these guys are all brilliant musicians, and together they not only illuminate each other, but create some sort of amazing ball of fire that casts a glow over anybody listening. Third, and most importantly, they don't take themselves seriously. That's not to say they don't take the business of creating great music seriously, but they know what they're doing isn't going to save lives or change the world, so there isn't any pomposity about what they do. They're here to make and play pop music and that's what they'll do for heaven's sake, with every fiber of their beings and piece of their hearts.
They also have a great sense of humour as you find out with the first song "Run Rabbit Run". Archie Brown, lead vocals, moans out a song about how hard it is to teach his pet bunny how to run. He discovers that shooting it in the butt with both barrels of a twelve gauge shot gun might not make it run, but it sure will get it flying and results in some great rabbit stew. While card carrying members of PETA without funny bones might not see the humour in this cut, it lets you know that you're in for a disc that's definitely not your typical pop recording.
From there on in the songs just keep getting better and better with the band exploring different variations of the funk and soul groove depending on the nature of the song. There's nothing even close to approximating a ballad, or even anything soppy and sentimental like you find on far too many so called soul records today. Unlike most other people The Bureau doesn't confuse the word soul with sentimental, or even worse orchestrated, middle of the road, adult listening warbling about how true my heart is or other such shit.
They understand that it means that the music you make has soul, that it sounds like it's been recorded by people, and you perform and sing it as if your life depended on getting the groove just right. This isn't the smooth as silk vocals or over produced music that seeps out of the radio these days, it's rough, raw, and pulsing with energy. Even better is the fact that they change things up constantly so that from one song to another the music is different. Everything from driving hard funk to old British music hall style songs shows up, and each are played with same amount of sparkle and élan. Not only do they do they play the music well but they play it with style, and that makes it all the more entertaining and exciting.
I've never been very keen for what's called white soul as it's usually insipid crap. The Bureau, like some other bands and musicians from the British Isles, prove to be the exception to that rule. Instead of trying to imitate the way people like James Brown or Sly Stone used to play funk and soul, they take the music and infuse it with the same energy that used to drive punk. By doing this they have created a sound unique to themselves, that not only makes for great listening, but is bound to get your feet moving and your hips swaying. If you take only one risk on an unknown quality this year when it comes to music make it The Bureau's new album …and another thing – you won't be disappointed. Remember for now you can only pick up a copy via their web-site, so scoot on over there and put your order in now – you won't regret it.