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The Bluetones - Return to the Last Chance Saloon

(Superior Quality)

Did The Bluetones die in the past year? Did we forget to tell you? Hang on a minute...

No according to our newsdesk, all four of them are very much alive and they've even got a new album out - probably the one I'm listening to right now.  Yup, thats definately what it says on the sleeve.  But if The Bluetones didn't die, go to heaven and cadge songwriting tips directly from God, John Lennon, Jimi, Hurt and Wolfgang, could somebody please explain how they've come up with 13 tracks as inspired as these? Eh? Well?

"Return To.." is as fresh as your first outdoor breath on a crisp spring day, as adrenalising as a five mile freefall into neat vodka and as heartbreaking as finding an ex's hair on a long forgotten shirt.  You remember the first time you ever took a drag on a cigarette? The way it tasted so much better than it ever would again, because you were tasting it with clean lungs? That's how this album feels, every single second of it.  This album is 17 years old, good looking and popular.  Its intelligent but not smug.  It's sexy but not sleazy.  Even "Sleazy Bed Track" isn't sleazy.  Instead it's the kind of song that makes you ache, that you hear with the pit of your stomach. Adam Devlin's trembling jazz guitar gently brushes away a tear as Mark Morriss sings a gorgeous tune on loan from Crowded House, sighing:"Why hide you face from me? /Why turn away?" before switching tack and surging into a chorus thats so damn horny Barry White would run off to join a monastary the second he heard it.  Its easily the stand-out, but every song here brims over with the same irrepressible passion, from the "Second Coming" riff frenzy of "The Jub Jub Bord" to the epic desert storm of "Unpainted Arizona".

What holds it all together is Mark's voice, the way he heaves that vulnerable sigh with every note (even on out-and-out party tracks like the heat-stroke dizziness of "Solomon Bites the Worm" or the "Disco 2000"-esque stomp of "At The Resevoir"). Which isn't to say he's yet another whinging, self-pitying grumbler, just utterly and adorably human.  Take "If...", a cheeky, jabbering tumble built on Scott Morriss' almost facetiously bouncy bassline, which tiptoes up to self doubt taps it on the shoulder and blows a raspberry right in its face. "Sometime I drink, I smoke and I ponder/ Can work wonders" grins Mark as the music gradually steamrolls its way through to the biggest most invigorating "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah" coda you're ever likely to hear. Its a delicious fatalism that's drolly echoed by the line: "Maybe the sky will fall/ ANd maybe kill us all/Or just the very tall" on the sweetly romantic, breezy "Sky Will Fall", yet another perfectly written, perfectly arranged and perfectly performed delight.  Thirteen songs and every one leaves you feeling 50 times better about yourself. Its an essential purchase, simple as that.  The Bluetones are dead. Long Live The Bluetones.

Robin Bresnark


Extracted from Melody Maker, March 1998