Album Reviews

BOB: The Singles and EPs (3 Loop Music/Cherry Red)

bob

BOB
The Singles and EPs
3 Loop Music/Cherry Red

British indie-poppers BOB released only one album in their lifetime, and it came in 1991, at the end of their existence. As unfortunate as it might seem, like many independent bands of the era, they released a substantial cache of singles and EPs, and this plainly titled compilation, Bob: The Singles and EPs, gathers up most of the loose ends from this underrated band.

As these things go, for a band that lasted five years, their maturation came quick and fast, with the jangly guitars of their first singles morphing into the trippy, psychedelic dance groove that was all the rage in England in 1991. They began their career quite humbly—and uniquely—by releasing a debut record on a flexi-disc, simply in hopes that it would stand out in the promo pile of singles and cassettes sent to John Peel. It was a bold, interesting move; moreover, it worked, and thus BOB’s career began. That EP, “Prune (Your Tree),” was little ditty with a distinctive bass line, and clever, witty lyrics that charmed upon first listen—a catchy song that still charms. It didn’t hurt that singer Richard Blackborow sang with an unpretentious style that added to the appeal to their songs.

The band’s subsequent singles built upon that formula, with each single being better than the one that preceded it. 1987s “What A Performance” and 1988s “Kirsty” are strong numbers, while the b-sides expand on that sound without embarrassment. On the remix version “Worra Performance,” one hears hints of what was soon to come—the jangle of the guitars tempered with beats and a dance groove. Their third EP, Convenience, was released in 1989, and was the band’s strongest, catchiest, best single. “Convenience” is a post-Smiths style rocker. “Thinking Wishful” is a quick little ditty, while “I Fall Upon The Thorns Of Life! I Bleed!!” is a biting commentary on the woe-is-me, down-and-out, no-hopers of the indie-pop scene, and “So Far, So Good” is a catchy Beatles-like acoustic love song that screamed mix-tape classic.

With the advent of the Nineties, the band’s style changed as well. The groove hinted at with “Worra Performance” returned with a vengeance on Stride Up; the band dishes the charmed indiepop sound for one more in line with the Madchester and baggy scenes. “Flagpole” is a startler, with its reversed guitar, its heavy percussive beat, and its newfound danceability. “My Blood is Drink” is a six-minute funk jam that is largely instrumental, and, again, is a shocking change of style, while “Daymaker” is a ballad that’s slightly more in tune with the band’s previous releases. This EP’s most stunning track, though, is the epic seven minute jam on The Beatles’ “Rain,” a psychedelic stew of dance and rock that sounds contemporaneous and yet still ahead of its time. The band’s second EP of 1990, Tired, continued the previous EP’s exploration of dance rock, and though nice, it lacks the same flare, and “Tired” feels especially slick and commercial. It’s a far cry from the flexi-disc releasing band from just three years before;  if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t recognize the two songs as being from the same band.

The band’s final EP, 1991s Nothing For Something, served as the single from the band’s debut album, Leave The Straight World Behind. The title track finds the band ditching the more obvious baggy, indie dance vibe, but it’s a strong pop number, one that showed the band had matured into a fine group. Not for nothing, had it been released three years later, it would have been an excellent Britpop single. The rest of the EP features a handful of demos of earlier singles, the most startling being “My Blood Is Drink,” which loses the funk, and is a straight up industrial number that sounds nothing like the previously released version. “Flagpole,” too, is different; stripped down, it feels much more in tune with the band’s earlier work, indicating that it was obvious the band wanted to expand its sound from its previous records.

Though BOB would come to its end with but one album to its name, these thirty three songs show that they were no mere one-and-done group. For a band to have been as prolific, there’s very little filler to be found here, and this fine collection is an enjoyable historical document of a band growing and maturing.

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