Photo: Mike Banks/RecordProduction.com
Review: Sundae Club are back
Stephen Morris does enjoy a bit of Cheltenham-based band, Sundae Club...and like a boy at Christmas, he's very excited to be reviewing their second album...
Aficionados of the world of music will tell you of a terrible affliction which strikes bands and other musical artists with such intensity that, left untreated, can prove fatal.
The disease is known as "Second Album Syndrome".
It is currently unrecognised as a true medical complaint by the General Medical Council but there's probably a campaign somewhere out there on Facebook to alter this.
Fortunately, Sundae Club have largely escaped the grips of this malady with their sophomore outing, British Summer Time through the judicious application of time, effort and soothing ointment.
Improving with Age
Time is, in fact, the most important ingredient of all in the creation of a Sundae Club album.
Parts of this album date back to 2004 when the Club's first album, Technostalgia was released.
The track "The Doddler" was excised from the band's debut while the new album's opening track "Good People" came into being before the CD burners had cooled down from the production of the same.
Elsewhere on the album, "Let's Go to Germany" first appeared in 2006 to celebrate the English entry of the World Cup in that year.
With the non-appearance of England in Austria and Switzerland this year, it's a pleasant reminder of (slightly) more fortunate footballing times.
For the uninitiated, allow me to explain. Sundae Club are a band like few others.
While most musical acts reviewed on these pages will consist of the standard guitar/bass/drums formation, Sundae Club's winning line up looks a little less conventional.
The band thrives on the sound of arcane electronica: moog synths, theremins and Mellotrons.
Throw in the occasional sample (begged, borrowed, stolen or specially created for the occasion) and vocal contributions from the likes of Sam Holmes and you have one of the most imaginative musical acts since Ludwig van Beethoven toured the bars of Cologne playing the spoons.
Where else could you get yoddling theremins duelling with samples of a nonsense poem, mad evangelical zealots bemoaning the quest for beauty, and a musical melding of British colonial (sythesised) brass with classical Indian song?
Certain tracks found on this second outing show an evolution in Sundae Club's style.
These songs retain a certain witty charm while dispensing with much of the gimmickry that could easily overwhelm an album so reliant on unconventional instruments.
"My New Neighbours", for example, features a man complaining about a noisy couple who have just moved into the flat upstairs.
The tune beneath is a mellow, chilled out track - the sort of thing that could be used as dinner party music for those who would prefer to avoid James Blunt, before rocking out with an instrumental not too many stones' throws from that found on Pink Floyd's "Money".
Sundae Club (Mike Banks/RecordProduction.com)
Ministry of Silly Talks
Elsewhere, the album's remaining tracks contain songs much sillier in tone - while holding tight to the highest of production values.
"Good People" features the sample of a nonsense poem "concerning Queen Victoria: a strange and funny dream", while "The Doddler" relates the equally strange and slightly more tragic tale of the travelling vent act, Reginald Arnold Ruddocks who was able to "illuminate a series of 250 volt light bulbs with his mouth and ears".
Meanwhile, second track "Pies" is the oddest of all. Imagine if the Happy Mondays had come from the West County and, instead of singing about Class A drugs, had preferred to sing about pastries. I told you it was a bit odd.
Best served in Small Doses
Although each carefully crafted song on the album approaches faultlessness in its individual content and production, British Summer Time poses something of a problem as an album.
The incoherence of placing a chilled out sample heavy track ("The Voder") next to a slick McCartney-esque baland ("Honey Bee"), next to a novelty song about a travelling vent act ("The Doddler") unsettles the listener somewhat - making the album sadly less than the sum of its glorious parts.
In these days of throwaway downloads and MP3 shuffle facilities, this forms less of an issue that it would have done in the halcyon days of LPs, cassettes and CDs.
But to hardened album-ophiles like me, it's just a little bit annoying.
I'm sure I'll get over it, though.
Keeping Sundae Club Special
Sundae Club remain one of the most inventive acts of our time.
Their music deserves to be (and is) heard well beyond the county boundaries of our fair Gloucestershire.
This writer for one will always look forward to news of further releases from this most imaginative of bands.
While track listings may remain an issue on this current album, each of the twelve tracks is a gem, best enjoyed and savoured on its own.
Sit back and enjoy.
If you're involved in the Gloucestershire music scene and you would like Stephen to review your music, please feel free to get in touch. Either email email@example.com or send your album and a bit about yourself to:
This article is an external contribution and expresses a personal opinion, not the views of the BBC
last updated: 21/01/2009 at 10:04