Close your eyes. Cast your mind back to 1992. The younger you is reading the NME, Melody Maker, Sounds: full of articles about, and interviews with, the likes of Suede, Lemonheads and Manic Street Preachers, and you can’t go anywhere without hearing ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M. The Stone Roses are working on their second album, and it’s probably about time the La’s started doing the same. Loads of those bands you were the first to like in school are now signed to major labels, and all is well in the world of music.
Open your eyes. It’s 2020, and you’ve gained a bit of weight, a few wrinkles here and there, and the colour has started to go from your hair. What happened to all those bands? R.E.M., Suede, the La’s… just distant memories. Manic Street Preachers are still going, but it’s not the same as it used to be. The Stone Roses… yes, well. Other bands you loved have reformed, give or take the odd original member, and it’s been quite pleasurable hearing them do the songs you bought years ago, even if they are a bit slower in tempo these days. Still, you’ve been able to buy them again in all their glory in remastered format, on record to boot! If only there was something new, that could capture the feeling of being 20 again.
Open your ears. There’s a song on the radio – it’s by BOB. You remember them from Peel, and bought ‘Convenience’ at the time. It’s a catchy song, this; reminiscent of the sound of 1992. It takes you back to being 20 again. Must be an old song you hadn’t heard before.
Stop. The song you have just heard is ‘Plastic’ – you can hear it above, too – and it is a new song that dates back to the era you reminisce about, when all was well in the world of music. And then you realise the brilliance of the moment: BOB, right now, are releasing a new album, a full length album, and it’s not full of songs written by a band trying to recapture their youth. It’s an album of songs written and recorded during their youth. Your youth, too!
You Can Stop That For A Start is that album; twelve tracks on the vinyl release, thirteen on the CD (both of which come supplied with access to a further fifteen more tracks). It’s the best of both worlds! It’s now and then, all rolled into one! These are not just cast-offs and rejects from yesteryear, either. They are tracks recorded to impress the likes of Parlophone and Notting Hill Music, both of whose noses could be found sniffing around the band once the collapse of Rough Trade scuppered the expectations around BOB’s debut album.
Recorded at The Square in Harlow and Bristol’s Coach House studio, this collection of songs finds BOB at both lyrical and musical peaks. ‘Say You’re Alone’ and ‘Telepathy’ are instantly hummable, singalong, radio-friendly tracks that could easily have found themselves nudging the Top 40 with the right label support. ‘Sundown’, based around a grunge, bluesy riff that you might have heard with trailers for the album remains as timeless as much of the band’s previous output. ‘Queen Of Sheba’ – a different version to that released as a flexi for the final BOB tour last year – demonstrates perfect pop sensibilities in an unmistakable BOB manner, all hooks and harmonies, whilst ‘Plastered In Paris’ provides a folkier offering that drives determinedly to its crescendo.
With well over a hundred and fifty unreleased songs to choose from, it is no surprise that there are no duds on the album. What is perhaps surprising to the uninitiated is that the bonus disc contains tracks that are equally good – check out ‘STP’ by way of example: on another day this could have secured BOB the deal with Parlophone that would have meant we wouldn’t have to wait so long for this record.
You Can Stop That For A Start is released on Optic Nerve in blue and black vinyl (website), white vinyl (independent record shops) and CD. It is available for pre-order now at https://opticnerverecordings.com/collections/bob, Let’s hope this isn’t the stop the title suggests – if these tracks are anything to go by, the rest of the unreleased archive must surely follow.
John Hartley is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, an autobiographical tale of the unsigned side of the music industry and “The Great Leap Forward” available here, both published by i40Publishing. After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song he has also turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free, at Broken Down Records.