The Bishops – For Now (W2 Records)
Begin with one question. There are myriad wrongs inherent in and spastically sprinting like an over-eager toddler through For Now, but consider this one question before any other thoughts and opinions form about the album: Why four?
Why wait for the end of the bar before you begin your next lyric? Why restrain yourself in the framework of ONE TWO THREE FOUR? What is it about that number that means all your bursts of lead guitar must be subservient to the beats in the bar?
That first question and most of the following ones could be asked justifiably of any band, and all would be justified in replying that it’s an accessible way to hear things if pop music’s your game. The sound of The Bishops, though, is so leaden that they can’t have any justifiable answer to this question. They can’t. Many bands sound better and worse than them, but for a band to be see governed by the prevailing frameworks of popular music like this is rare. They blindly accept everything that Rock Around The Clock, Smells Like Teen Spirit and even Eine Kleine Nachtmusik taught the world without even thinking to challenge it, without even considering themselves worthy enough to have an independent thought outside so many pre-prescribed and pre-established classics.
The only way to move forward, musically, apart from ripping up all rulebooks entirely, is to take some of your history with you and show it some healthy disrespect. Know that you need it, but ultimately expand on it. To paraphrase John Peel, pop music success comes in mixing what you know people will like with what you think people will like. The Bishops know what people will like, and they deliver it in risk-free, Las-esque shamble pop, the tear-inducing mediocrity of which will take some matching. Why are all the vocal harmonies in parallel fifths? Why does every guitar drip with tremolo? Are there any dynamics at all in the record? Are they the musically straightest band in the country? More questions, fewer answers.
He Was A Friend Of Mine is the only argument you could make for this record having more than one face, limping toward the finish line in sparse and uninteresting acoustic fettle, with lyrics that, while undoubtedly very sad, are too vague and uninvolving to engender any kind of sympathy or empathy. Let us know the dead man’s story and we’ll feel for him and for you. As the last chord rings out and the first chord of the next song (the equally sat and satisfied Rain Dance) arrives, it’s impossible not to be thankful for the return of some clatter. That lasts a couple of seconds and you’re straight back to hating it, but still.
The reader might think that not enough actual analysis has gone on here, that maybe this is the sort of review symptomatic of personal grudge against a dull act. It’s not – there are simply no more ways of expressing how redundant, functionless, unlistenable and angering For Now is, and specific examples are not going to help. Curiously, we find ourselves in exactly the same position as The Bishops – out of ideas.
For Now is released on March 2nd, more info here.