Monday, 14 December 2009

Bingo Trappers - 'Juanita Ave.' (Animal World)

A few years after their masterful Sierra Nevada, the Bingo Trappers returned on a new label with this CD, which (if I remember correctly) was marketed fairly strongly: magazine ads, college radio play, and a big US tour. All in vain, methinks -- they sank without a trace and now this remains an obscurity, though less than a decade old (2000). Given the preponderance of bedroom-lofi thumb-twiddlers making their rounds now (I'm looking at you, Woodsist label!) you'd think it would be time for a comeback. I expected as much when Woods put out a record on Shrimper - that seemed to link the two 'movements', if there is any such thing to link. But the Bingo Trappers, if they still exist, are probably just hiding out in some Amsterdam suburb now. Juanita Ave. is a strong set of songs, and generously so - 15 of them in 50 minutes - and the tone shifts a lot to prevent it from ever sounding samey. There might not be anything as earth-shatteringly classic as 'King in Exile' here, but there's a similar bummer/ramshackle feel throughout. 'Is That a Fact' reminds me a bit of Suicide or Lou Reed - there's definitely more 'tude here than these Nederlanders ever showed before. The first half of the album is strongly guitar-jangle heavy - not aggressive or distorted, but frantic and lyrical. Deeper investigation would probably reward a r willing to lose themselves in 'God's Biographer', 'White Bikini' or 'The Last Resort/Seinpost 1976'. I can hear sentimentality, self-criticism, and resignation, even on the goofier sounding stuff like 'The Real Mr. Tambourine'. Energy is great, especially when brushed over 4-track recorded rock drums, but I love this band when they're at their most pastoral. 'Twilight Kids' recalls 'Walkin' Through the Clouds' from Sierra Nevada, and is a step above the rest of the songs in terms of fidelity. It's followed by 'My Virtual Things', which takes a page from the Bats songbook and hits that mellow NZ sunshine vibe. I should say here that this record is lo-fi, but honestly so. There are no deliberately disfigured tunes, apart from maybe 'Sneakers' ghetto-industrial rhythm/theremin loop. These last three songs actually are a great coda to the album - my favorite part - and make me think of the 'Nighttime'/'Blue Moon'/'Take Care' trilogy that ends Big Star's Third (which, coincidentally, is the last CD reviewed here). I suspect there's hundreds of these discs somewhere in a box in Tallahassee, which is a shame for the band, the label, and the public.

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