Sunday, 25 October 2009
On Wednesday I saw the Broken Family Band's last ever London gig. One of my favourite bands, they're splitting up after eight years and seven records. According to their website, "We can't pin it on musical differences, we've just decided to quit while we're ahead" but you've got to figure it's frustrating when you think you're one of the best bands in the country and keep putting out records that rarely get airplay.
Joanne introduced to me to the BFB's first full-length album Cold Water Songs before we started going out and they are probably the only band I've followed from near inception to their demise. What initially drew me to them was their combination of twang and funny, very English lyrics and although they became less countryfied in recent years the snarky observational wit remained.
In the pub prior to this week's farewell at the Garage, Highbury Corner I tried to recall where else I'd seen them. The 12 Bar Club (support from Milk Kan), multiple Come Down and Meet The Folks appearances at the Fiddler's Elbow and Golden Lion (once upstaged by a very young Kitty, Daisy & Lewis), LSE student union (attendance apx 20, someone still yelled 'Robots'), the 100 Club, Koko, the Cambridge Folk Festival (hilarious duet with Emily Barker for them, altercation with some crusties for me), The Luminaire, Tricycle Theatre (all acoustic, nothing plugged in), The Water Rats...
They've always been a brilliant live act, enlivened by singer Steven Adams' dry wit and sarcastic/rude audience baiting. Wednesday was no different in this regard; a bloke called out "Devil in Disguise". Adams' retort went something along the lines of, "The song's called Devil in the Details you cunt. You motherfucker. It's because of people like you that we are splitting up." From most people that level of abuse would be unbearable; at a Broken Family Band gig I find it strangely endearing.
To mark them riding out into the sunset here's a track from each of their records plus one from their 2003 session for John Peel. If you are new to these you've really missed a wonderful band. Losers.
MP3: When We're Dry (feat. Mary Epworth) (2002)
Lots of recurring BFB themes here: booze, sadness, minor league self-loathing, awkward relationships.
Buy: The King Will Build a Disco
MP3: (I Don't Have the Time To) Mess Around (2003)
Worth hearing if only for the delightful lines, "There's a dog sleeping in my bed/If I tickle his balls/He Gives me sweet head".
Buy: Cold Water Songs
MP3: You Were A Nightmare (Peel Session)
Peel has a few technical problems before playing the track. Bear with him. The original is also on Cold Water Songs.
Buy: Cold Water Songs
MP3: The King Of Carrot Flowers Parts Two & Three (2004)
A cover of the Neutral Milk Hotel classic. See also my Rock'n'Roll Jesus post for another track from the record.
Buy: Jesus Songs
MP3: John Belushi (2005)
To my mind this one of the band's best songs.As you'll hear, it's not really about John Belushi.
Buy: Welcome Home, Loser
MP3: Alone In The Make-Out Room (feat. Piney Gir) (2006)
More bitterness expertly and humorously deployed.
MP3: Dancing On the 4th Floor (2007)
This is definitely not a country song. At Wednesday's gig guitarist Jay Williams asked the assembled who wished the band had stayed country. A lot of hands went up. Then Jay extended his middle finger in their direction.
Buy: Hello Love
MP3: Cinema vs. House (2009)
An eternal dilemma: "We could go to the cinema/But that's two hours without speaking/Or we could go walking the streets/Where there are kids who might try to fuck us up".
Buy: Please and Thank You
Buy Broken Family Band records at Amazon