The Bevis Frond: London Stone

Hunter Felt

Bevis Frond's follow-up to their classic New River Head finally arrives in America, and its blend of indie and classic rock could not have come at a better time.

The Bevis Frond

London Stone

Label: Rubric
US Release Date: 2005-07-12
UK Release Date: 2005-08-15
Amazon affiliate

The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman, despite his band's longevity and his consistent evolvement with the indie-rock scene, is something of an odd man out. The Bevis Frond is a long-live band that has created countless albums for two decades or so, a band unafraid to mix genres and explore esoteric avenues without ever succumbing to the demands of the pop culture marketplace. Still, there's a classic rock tilt to the Bevis Frond's guitar solo heavy output that puts off otherwise compelled listeners. Even Pitchfork's Marc Hogan, who gives a very favorable review of the new reissue of Bevis Frond's "lost" (at least in America) album London Stone alludes to this bias in his comments on the track "A Most Singular Hole": "Don't ask me to explain why 'A Most Singular Hole' is better than a well-shroomed jam band with the right pedals; it's not." At some point the Bevis Frond dabble in just a little too much prog rock, a little too much hippie-ness, a little too much of what could be considered "uncool" to really allow the band to reach the general indie-rock consciousness.

That is why the reissue of London Stone, Saloman's follow-up to the critically respected New River Head which never found a distributor here in the States, couldn't have come at a better time. The appeal of the cool has gradually faded, and the general pop music fan is growing sick of trying to be the first to discover a new M.I.A. or a new Arcade Fire, maybe what we all need is some music that has the force and drive of classic rock. Classic rock after all, isn't just Foreigner and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, it's also the Neil Young's delirious sludge rock, Badfinger's anthemic choruses, and the Allman Brothers Band's expansive yet rootsy psychedelia, all of which can be found on London Stone.

I'll stop ranting now because I fear of creating a straw man that doesn't exist. After all, no matter how punk rock one's tastes, there's no argument with the pure thrill ride of "Coming Round", a seven-minute epic that could be Bevis Frond's ultimate statement, sort of a grungy cousin to Sonic Youth's "Teenage Riot". "Coming Round" is a catchy pop song transformed into an epic courtesy of a series of vicious and compelling guitar solos. There isn't a single wasted note on "Coming Round", it is a tightly wound pop song that just happens to include a few solos and last around seven minutes. On paper it's a prog-rock mess, but when you hear it through the speakers, it's about as self-indulgent as a two minute Ramones song.

The best songs on the album all follow the same guide, there is nothing separating the songs themselves and the instrumental breaks, they are interconnected to a point where they couldn't exist without each other. The menacing "Still Trying", the spacey but grinding "A Most Singular Hole", the wistful "And Now She's Gone" are all perfectly balanced mixture of song and soloing. Only "Well Out of It" falls under the common improviser's trap of producing a song that is clearly just a rough sketch that is to be expanded onstage. Saloman also avoids getting in the "jam song or nothing" mentality, so he is able to branch out into other directions, making sure the album doesn't devolve into mere riffing. "Freedom Falling" is a jangling short pop tune, and "Lord of Nothing" is a pleasant acoustic idyll that helps to buffer the one-two punch of the distortion-filled "London Stone" and the loud and swirling blast that is "And Now She's Gone".

For those who already have the album, there are considerable bonus tracks (about a half-hour's worth, in fact). None of these are really great songs, and some of them, in fact, go right along with Hogan's assessment that when Saloman is off, his work can be a little dull in a "jam band with the right pedals" sort of way. For a serious fan, however, the affecting and honest "Another Song about Dying" may hold some interest, as well as a punk rock tempo take on "And Now She's Gone". Still, this reissue is designed to appeal to those American fans that never got to hear London Stone in the first place. And it's pretty damn good, even if it is full of those dreaded guitar solos.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.