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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Be-Bop Deluxe - Drastic Plastic [Esoteric Records/ Cherry Red - 2021]

Originally released back in 1978 Drastic Plastic, was the 5th & final album from the UK four-piece Be-Bop Deluxe. It saw the band largely moving away from the prog & glam rock styling's of their previous work, towards a blend of new wave, art rock and early synth-pop tropes. It certainly was a daring & risky release, that sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t, but you certainly have to admire the band for stepping outside their four-album comfort zone. Here from Cherry Red Sub-label Esoteric Records, we have a recent deluxe reissue of the album- with the double CD set bringing together two mixes of the album, a good selection of bonus tracks, an inlay booklet & mini-poster.

The two discs comes presented in an eight-panel digipack, which features the albums original cover artwork  of coloured squares & yellow paint splashes. Inside we find moody black & white pictures of each of the  bands four members & studio session sheets. We also get a glossy twenty-eight-page inlay booklet, which features a new fourteen-page write-up about the album from key songwriter Bill Nelson, a good selection of rare pics, and of course full credits. Another nicely presented Esoteric release.

Be-Bop Deluxe were formed in 1972 in Wakefield West Yorkshire by lead vocalist/ lead guitarist Bill Nelson. The rest of the initial line-up been made up of Richard Brown –keyboards. Robert Bryan– bass, lead vocals. Nicholas Chatterton-Dew – drums, backing vocals, percussion, and  Ian Parkin – rhythm and acoustic guitars. The band signed to Harvest Records in 1974, releasing the debut album Axe Victim- this mixed elements of prog, glam, and art-rock- though the line-up only stayed for this record. By the time we get to 1978, and the release of Drastic Plastic Nelson was the only  remaining original member, so clearly, the project was very much his baby.

Drastic Plastic appeared in February 1978, once again released by Harvest. It offered up eleven tracks and felt very much a genre crossbreed of new wave, art rock, electronic fed rock, and early synth-pop- with fleeting touches of their prog-rock past here and there. The line-up for the album was Bill Nelson - lead vocals, electric, acoustic and 12-string guitars, mandolin, guitar synthesizer, piano & percussion. Andy Clark - keyboards and synthesizers. Charlie Tumahai - bass guitar, backing vocals, and Simon Fox - drums, loops.

The original album kicks-off with “Electrical Language”, and this is a good example of the albums cross blending sound- as we find a gentle bobbing mix of electro beats, bounding synth lines, rolling & wailing conventional electric guitar elements, and zooming-to-swoop guitar synth tones- all topped off with Nelson’s vocals that sound like a more expressive Brian Eno, meets toned a down David Byrne.  As we move through we come to the scuttling & weaving quirkiness of “Surreal Landscape” with its clip-clopping keys ‘n’ beats, whistling sweeps, subdued guitar rock rises and even more Eno like vocals. We have the urgent jerking-to- darting keys & rolling guitar rock-out of “Love In Flames”.  Or at the other end of the spectrum- the richly shimmering & strumming almost Spanish edged clean/ electric guitar meets warming electro tone glow of the instrumental “Visions Of Endless Hope”. Or towards the end the chugging ‘n’ bounding new wave meatiness-come- playful synth key jaunts of “possession”. There’s no doubt throughout the album the band are certainly aping other up & coming bands/ poplar musical trends- but they manage to add in their own touches & ticks, that make Drastic Plastic a fairly varied & enjoyable, if not wholly distinctive record.

The first disc takes in the original stereo mix of the albums eleven tracks- these are topped off with nine bonus tracks, which take in A & B sides, and intended EP tracks. The second disc features the new stereo mix of the album, and this nicely balances out the layers of formal rock elements, with the synth/electronic side of things. With this disc been topped off with five bonus tracks, that take B sides, a single version of album tracks, and alternative takes.

As an album Drastic Plastic shows a band tried of towing the same sonic lines, wanting to venture out to try new genres & new sonic approaches. And when it works we do find a rewarding cross-blend of the old & new.  Great to see Esoteric Records giving a classy/ deluxe release of the album, that will appeal to those who enjoy where rock-meets-more synth/ electro-pop/rock sounds.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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