Posts Tagged ‘Brick Bosso’

BRICK BOSSO, Birds And Believers (2020)

Brick Bosso 2020

The underground Californian scene is as boiling as ever, with Brick Bosso’s brand new album Birds And Believers.

Brick Bosso’s apparently light Californian tone hardly hides some more socially ambitious lyrics, going from a playful look to the retail world (the up-tempo piano-driven The Hyper SuperMarket) to the story of homeless person on Walk Away, a Hollywood Boulevard vs Downtown LA-inspired song, emphasizing on the thin, very thin line between the fortunate and the unfortunate in our society. Walk Away shows welcomed fragility in Brick Bosso’s voice, making the song surprisingly emotional. The presence of a vocoder doesn’t spoil anything, quite the opposite.

Social issues has always been ska’s speciality, should we remind you that Brick Bosso is heavily into the genre? The opener Storks And Vultures with its driving beat and 60’s organ, is rather reminiscent of Bosso’s previous release Ska Time.

However the range of influences is wider here, like Hollywood Heroes, a delicate piece that slightly reminds me of Bruce Wooley’s Camera Club English Garden album, if anyone remembers. The heroes here are not who you’d think they are, Brick Bosso picturing the people dressed up as superheroes and cartoon character on Hollywood Boulevard, trying their best to make some money.

Brick Bosso seize the opportunity to tackle the apathy of politics on the ska-punk I Don’t Care At All, politics that he depicts as being theatre of the absurd.

The protest songs influence is even more obvious on the quasi-dylanesque Secular Song,  sung with a camp voice and a more flamboyant style.

The mysterious Spazzmatazz is drifting away from ska, led by a driving bass and some almost chanted ‘It could happen to you, it could happen to you’. Brick Bosso invites his old friend and musical partner Mark Abbruzzese.

With the irresistibly melodic closer Birds And Believers, Brick Bosso unleashes the poet within and pays a tribute to the Monkees’ Daydream Believer.

Available on Bancamp: https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com/album/birds-and-believers

Is Brick Bosso new hype of 2020’s Californian underground? With its song-based psychedelic, adventurously raucous rock, bringing melodies back in a world where it now only belongs to some sophisticated acts, this mysterious project suddenly reveals a new side of its talent, adding to that a connection with the raising glories of West Coast ska: Ska’N’Bones.

If Ska was popularised in the late 70’s, early 80’s, thanks to the boldness of the well-named band Madness, the origins of this genre date long before that. It was, in a nutshell, the 1950’s precursor of reggae, which whom it shares rhythmic similarities. Some say ska is reggae on vitamins (or any upper substance), while it would be more logical to see reggae as ska on weed.

Here comes Mr Ska Time, real tapes and real ska.

From the first notes of “Leaky Connections”, you know it’s Brick Bosso. And you know it’s ska. The good news is that Brick Bosso doesn’t pastiche ska; he lives it. To the bones. (pun intended)

You distinguish the unmistakeable trademark of Bosso, that almost Lennonesque acid in the voice and guitars, the sometimes surprising chords change (“All Of These Dreams”) that remind us that there’s a very competent musician behind the project.

Brick Bosso going ska isn’t a surprise when you dig deeper in his blurred identity: it happens that the common ground with Ska’N’Bones is hard to deny.

It may take a private detective to dig under Brick Bosso’s mystery, yet the man himself wasn’t too reluctant to answer our almost innocent questions.

You joined Ska’N’Bones sometimes after you had already launched your Brick Bosso career. Would have “Ska Time” have existed without becoming part of Ska’N’Bones? Or was a ska album already a plan of yours anyway?
Brick Bosso: I had created two Brick Bosso [https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com/] albums before Ska ‘N’ Bones assembled, which, when we finally released Smally Fingers then played live, inspired me to write songs in the Ska style for a third album. All the fun of reuniting with old friends plus the energetic mania of Ska music motivated me to create Ska Time as a spin-off of Ska ‘N’ Bones.

How different is your writing approach of ska with the two projects?
Brick Bosso: Having the parameters of a Ska beat just made it easier to formulate the tunes. I had already conceived of “Leaky Connections” as a kind of manic new wave song, so when I was finishing it to present to Mike and Jon, I added the Ska beat which motivated and propelled me. A good beat always helps, and this period of writing for Ska Time was lots of fun because I had been re-infected with the Ska bug.

Will the “Ska Time” album bring live material for Ska’n’Bones?
Brick Bosso: We’ve already performed “Leaky Connections” live and I hope that there will be others.

With “Housing Crisis”, you blur the boundaries between ska and reggae. How would you really differentiate the two styles?
Brick Bosso: As I understand it, Ska was created first in Jamaica of the 50’s, then was adapted to become reggae at a slower tempo to make it cooler for the dancers in crowded clubs. This story could be totally apocryphal however. The best of both genres are concerned with issues of social justice, though there are obviously examples of cool love songs in both.

For sure, “Housing Crisis” is the gem of the album, with its reggae-infused skank and intriguing synthesized brass. It also brings a more socially assertive lyrics on the table.

Brick Bosso: I’m aware that as a white man my reggae creds require of the listener a bit of suspension of disbelief, but the issue-the high cost of housing, which is a literally life-threatening reality all around me in California–seemed like a natural topic for a reggae tune. And the melody as I was writing it fit the slower tempo, so I went with it. Reggae did catch my ear as a child, but when the second wave of Ska arrived around 1979 –The Specials, Madness, The English Beat and Selecter — my head exploded. The combination of social justice issues, romantic discontent, and fun upbeat mania was the perfect mix. It was off the charts fun and still affects me in a ways no other genre of music does. And yes, I think that having Reggae as a vehicle almost cries out for social content. When writing housing crisis I very intentionally created it almost as homage to those great reggae artists from Jamaica I first heard in the 70s. I think it shows most in the synth brass arrangement and the drum sounds. Social content is not necessary but Ska and Reggae do beg for it.

Another tune is called “(I Wanna Be) Legitimate” and despite its title, doesn’t raise any question: it only confirms that Brick Bosso is legitimate in the ska world. To the point of leaving Ska’N’Bones behind, as just a stepping stone? The closer “Bye Bye Bones” may make us wonder. Still, Bosso corrects that ““Bye Bye Bones” was written in an extended period of inactivity between the first Ska ‘N’ Bones single and the recording of four additional songs for our first EP. My imagination went wild, as it often does, and the resulting song is a speculative, humorous look at my concerns about not hearing anything from my pals in the band, because they were all very busy with other gigs. Funny fact: the sound bites at the beginning and end are excerpts from recordings Mike, Jon and I made as promos for Ska Parade on Dirty Radio… I’m not going solo–Brick Bosso is a separate project but is not exclusive.”

40 years after the early 80’s ska boom, Bosso and Ska’N’Bones might be the twins that will renew the genre.

Brick Bosso, “Ska Time”, available on Amazon, CD Baby, Apple Music, Bandcamp and Google Music.

 

I didn’t want to start this review with the same old moans about how great music was in the past and how boring it is now. But I will. I love being an old fart. In the evolution of rock, let’s say from “Rock Around The Clock” until now, there has been some periods, clear evolutions and devolutions that led us to what the music market is now: music either impersonating past eras on an embarrassing parody, either bland and unbearably safe. Live venues are polluted by cover bands and audiences are fooled to the point of thinking that Muse is really a rock band. Where are the melodies?

Brick Bosso stole them.

Most known for his huge knowledge on synthesizers and his flair to discover unique artists all over the world, Brick Bosso somehow decided, maybe without even knowing it, to become the most British act from California.

The press release is as short as it can be, stating that “Equipped with only a minimalist studio and guitars, tons of talent, and his curse-breaking tenacity, Brick Bosso finally releases his debut album.

When asked to clarify the issue of the music style he’s conveying, Bosso keeps it vague: “I’m happy to tell some stories in songs– stories that I might not have had a chance to articulate if I hadn’t picked up my guitar.”

Stories. “Dark Exposure” is all about stories, articulated words matching their melody that could almost rank Bosso in the crooner box. “I think the thing I value most about writing songs is the ability to tell stories and present views of things that are unusual or awkward to express in everyday life.”

On the short 35 minutes spread into 12 songs (two being download bonuses), Brick Bosso shows a talent that may hide a devouring ambition to conquer a niche and crush other musicians. But always unassuming, he humbly states that “Ideally the album will get just enough attention to attract a few musicians so I can assemble a team, kind of like the way The Avengers or The Justice League were assembled, only on a much, much smaller budget, and even louder.”

Dark Exposure” has what a good album needs: an unity and enough variety to keep the listener satisfied, from the first notes of the sunny beach anthem “Watching The Sun Come Up” to the last beat of the acoustic-driven “Strange Transcendent Mary”, making Mary rhyme with Hello Kitty under a comfy blanket of Mellotron strings.

I told before that Bosso had a soft spot for analog machines, yet the synthesizers are strangely low-key in the record. They make an apparition here and there, but besides the New Order infused “The Day And The Night” and its dissonant guitars fighting with an uncontrollable synth-bass, they mostly leave space for a dominative Farfisa organ, sometimes 60s on steroids, sometimes even punk (“Was”). The organ leaves its comfort zone to do the perfect match with new-wave guitars on the fascinating “Flow With It”, or sympathises with an almost industrial drum machine on “True Believer”.

The 60’s feel comes here and there, especially with “Mary On My Mind” that sounds McCartney-ish even before hearing some of the confirming lyrics.

The obvious single that could smash the radios is the infectious “Here Comes Mr. Faketapes”, that asks for explanation, such a title being obviously anything but innocent. Brick Bosso provides it when asked about the future of his promising musical career. Brick Bosso came on album as unexpectedly as he might withdraw, since he’s not a heavy planner and when asked if he could release something new sometimes near, he smiles and shrugs:

Well, now that I’ve called out the false claimants (Find Your Heart Again), criticized the tape fabricators (Here Comes Mr. Faketapes) and addressed Marian apparitions (Strange Transcendent Mary), there’s not much more for me to do, other than sit back and play my ukulele.

Seeing that his statement was hard to believe from such a creative man, he slightly corrects: “I’m tinkering with some other songs, but as far as making “dark exposure” suddenly obsolete by creating a follow up, I’m not ready for that yet.”

Really? Can this be true. Bosso looks irritated and, as if he wanted to please us just to get rid of annoying questions, he closes the interview by dropping “I really don’t know what’s next. I’m writing some more in a more classic rock and blues vein, this time mostly using piano. We’ll see.

Yes we’ll see. And in waiting, let’s keep on hearing and listening to the “Dark Exposure” album from someone who’ll get to be known, despite himself, maybe.

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Brick Bosso, “Dark Exposure”, 2017.

Available at https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com/

Album purchase includes two bonus tracks, “Conversations (We Might Have Had)” and “Waiting For The Paradox”.