FACT: as mentioned before Bambara saved my SXSW last year, with a stop you in your tracks late set at a venue called (brilliantly? ironically?) Cheer Up Charlies. They stalked on stage, the last gang in town: haunted and hunted. Joyous, dark and compelling.
So I’ve been looking forward to this new album for nearly a year and it doesn’t disappoint. If anything it actually holds together even better than the last LP
‘Stray’ is widescreen and black and white with splashes of red. If it was a film (and again, I’ve roughed this out before but…) it would be a Sin City crossed with a Tarantino Spaghetti Western. It would be a tense, gonzoid remake of Bonnie & Clyde; a grown-up feature-length American road trip version of The End Of The Fucking World; or a darker, more complicated, nuanced Barfly.
The cinematic images come thick and fast: of arsonists and evangelists; of diners going up in flames and cars careering through downtown streets, littered with newspapers carrying stories of outsiders constantly on the run; insides of apartments where whose dwellers barely sleep and The Grim Reaper playing poker in a downtown launderette. It is gumball fiction written with a poetic flourish and a genuine skill in creating and understanding the characters who inhabit the songs (those in the shadows ‘Sing To Me In The Street’, those on the edge ‘Serafina’ and those at breaking point ‘Ben_Lily’).
Musically, it’s exhausting and moody. It has a sort of Cave-style drawl and a Jonathan Fire*eater sleaze and swagger. It is powered by the drums and slashes of guitar and occasional brass – urgent and in the moment and in the best traditions of an old school rock & roll record. It has a reckless side yet…there is an almost gospel (at times) almost soul group (at others) use of backing vocals that sweeten the dark, impatient waters (like three sugars in a double expresso?).
For an album which deals with wild abandon and impetuous, crazed logic, it is beautifully and astutely structured.
And when the movie of it is finally made, the billboard strapline will read: BAMBARA – Have they come to take your souls or save them?