BOOZE, DOPE AND FEVER - Bomber (Bad Attitude! Records)
It’s taken me a while to get around to reviewing the album from Finland’s Bomber, something that can only be attributed to my own lethargy and various competing priorities. But the time it’s taken to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – has only allowed me to appreciate this Finnish swamp music on a more considered level. As far as I know Finland is not known for its swamps, or indeed its marginalised black underclass who have taken to blues to express their personal and social torment. But you wouldn’t guess either of these if you listened to "Booze, Dope and Fever".
The music on the CD is even more dated than can be attributed to my slackness. Recorded originally in 1999 (a time that’s so distant it’s almost forgettable), the songs were mastered in 2004 and released shortly after. Given that timeline, there’s no chance you could accuse Bomber of getting on any swamp punk bandwagon.
Bomber’s personnel includes Jeffrey Lee Burns and Ski Williamson from Finnish rock’n’roll saviours The Flaming Sideburns; Done Hesus and El Toro play swamp-voodoo-blues with The Mutants. Apparently the album was recorded at a time when the outside temperature was reaching levels most of us in the southern hemisphere only see on weather reports; the fact that Bomber could come up with an album that bubbles away with dark, brooding swamp is an effort in itself.
“Booze, Dope and Fever” is very much in the early Beasts of Bourbon tradition, back in the days when Kim Salmon, Tex Perkins and Spencer P Jones were drawn together by a love of the disturbing edges of deep country and bad patterned polyester shirts. “El Toro’s Mood” is reminiscent of Salmon’s “Don’t Expect Anything”, a methodical journey into territory that may just be inhabited by some of life’s truly rich human tapestry. “Once With A Feeling”, in subtle contrast, is somewhere between Nick Cave and the Blackeyed Susans, the lyrics flirting with the topics of redemption and the finding of one’s soul, the music exhibiting a stomping brass-fueled orchestral feel that you might’ve once experienced at Melbourne’s former Continental Cafe.
“Hard to Kick” is as dry and dusty as a Morricone soundtrack, while the baritone beauty of "Acting As Your Lover" channels the best of The Triffids in their illustrious (and underappreciated) career. “Doing Time” might suggest a narrative about incarceration but it’s anything but morose as it winds its way casually through the slings and arrow of outrageous rock’n’roll fortune. “Shot of Cortisone” is the product of putting Link Wray in the desert with nothing but a David Lynch script, an amphora of moonshine, a guitar and an amp that goes to 12. It’s slow and ponderous to the naked ear, but deep and meaningful when played in the dead of night.
“Heaven’s Gate” is arguably the best song on the album, and possibly the song the Beasts of Bourbon always wanted to record but never got around to. It stomps like a motherfucker on the back of a riff that hits you across the head like a glass thrown across a crowded saloon. “Deep Waters” blends wah-wah courtesy of The Electric Prunes with a Nick Cave-like personal lyrical introspection and a surrounding soundtrack that Mick Harvey would doff his cap to. Eddy Dixon’s “Relentless” has the rolling, familiar deep country guitar rock twang championed by the Stray Cats (and subsequently Phantom, Rocker and Slick).
As a final treat there’s 10 minutes of Psykodelico recorded live at the Semifinal Club in Finland on New Year’s Eve in 1999. It’s a blues-swamp-punk jam that The Drones would be proud of. Rarely straying out of straight rock timing, it rises and falls like the best swamp-punk jams, and may well have provided the best soundtrack to see in the new millenium.
This is very good stuff; I’m not sure how much of a going concern Bomber remains but there’s plenty here for Finnish music fans to be proud of, and the rest of us to wait in hope for more of.- Patrick Emery
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