The Bevis Frond fans are constantly excited for the band’s next release, and it’s easy to see why. In 30 years, the band have released 23 records. That’s very nearly one a year. Their latest, ‘We’re Your Friends, Man’, generously features a whopping 20 songs spread over almost 90 minutes. But is it quantity over quality?
Nick Saloman’s distinctive murmuring vocals introduce the album on opener ‘Enjoy’, using the songs to directly address fans: “This is the last thing on your Christmas list … I hope that you enjoy it”. It’s self-reflexive and oh so postmodern, which is unsurprising coming from a band whose back catalogue seems firmly planted in 1980s psychedelia. A melodic guitar solo signals both the midway point and, because of its length, the song’s close. The unevenness sounds very much like a jam session among bandmates, bringing a sense of intimacy to the record.
The title track is like a hippy-inspired Neil Young. It’s gentle, calming and perfect for when you just want to sit and contemplate life. The song is a great chance for Saloman to demonstrate his musical versatility. But just as you think you’re in for a cosy listen, ‘Pheromones’ shakes you awake again with its unashamed guitar and thumping, thrusting drums.
‘Little Orchestras’ feels extremely personal, demonstrating the sensitivities that come with the lyric writing of a longstanding musician. The lyrics reflect on music’s past and its influence on Saloman flood the song with nostalgia. This would seem forced and insincere from most other artists, however as Saloman is something of a music veteran, this song is wonderful, if a little unexpected.
The self-reflections continue, becoming a driving force throughout the record. In ‘Venom Drain’, Saloman is wishful and looking to a future filled with opportunities to put plans into action “before your life unravels”. The track comfortably levels out, allowing the vocals and lyrics to become the main point of interest.
Closing track ‘You’re On Your Own’ is an epic feat of musical engineering, proudly reaching an astonishing 13 minutes. It appears to be the life-and-times of Saloman’s worldly outlook and disgruntling experiences, covering an array of topics. The most notable is a bitterness towards past negative reviews (“Enter asinine reviewer/ Blithely referencing nemesis/ Take your viewpoint to the sewer/ And never come back to these premises”) and a nostalgic longing for the way things once were (“This is not the sport I cherish/ And not the London I remember”). Much of the track, however, reflects the album’s beginning and works to showcase the band’s abilities to push the boundaries; well over eight minutes of the track is complex and immense solos.
Overall, ‘We’re Your Friends, Man’ is a treat to listen to. Much of its reception will rely on the tastes of the listener: if you don’t like lengthy songs, you probably won’t like this record. But, for those of us who enjoy the unique experience a long song can bring, this album will work wonders.