This year, psychedelic jazz-pop oddballs – BETHLEHEM CASUALS – will be wrenching minds wide-open with their brand new album.
Ambitious, inventive and plain barking mad, on 17th April 2020 the Manchester misfits will release a concept record unlike any that has come before: ‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’.
Throwing us a bone as to what to expect, today the band offer-up its first official single: “Flaccid Passion”, arriving with an aptly sleazy video ripe for its title.
Watch the official “Flaccid Passion” video here: https://youtu.be/YGjBxBx4Ef0
A veritable orgy of exotic sounds and even more erotic visuals, the “Flaccid Passion” finds the Casuals getting know each other more intimately as sweaty, flailing flesh-meets-flesh in a video part paganistic ritual, part moth-masquerade ball moshpit. Mothers, shield your children’s eyes, this is not one for the faint hearted; but then neither are the Bethlehem Casuals.
For the uninitiated, Bethlehem Casuals are living proof that seven heads are undoubtedly better than one. With their infectiously idiosyncratic compositions, strung-out live shows and, of course, their notably laid-back nature (it’s in the name); these past few years Bethlehem Casuals have been ensnaring growing audiences in their deliriously entertaining cocktail of sounds and wickedly lurid imagination. The hydra-headed band now launch into 2020 with a new concept album that is a bizarre extension of their collective mindset and the culmination of everything you’d ever hoped they dream up.
‘The Tragedy of Street Dog‘ tells the story of a house-pet-gone-rogue. Set in the band’s own hometown, the story follows a canine protagonist ‘Street Dog’ as he embarks on a quest to rediscover the music of Manchester. Along his perilous journey, Street Dog visits some of the city’s infamous haunts like Temple Bar, The Oxford Road and The Hacienda, and encounters treacherous foes like ‘River Rat’ (a character who will be familiar to fans from the band’s first EP) and ‘The Oki’ (a despicable “scream without a mouth”). Discovering that all the music in Manchester is being held hostage in Salford (where else?), Street Dog frees the incarcerated musical spirits and enjoys the night of his life in their company as he begins a rite of passage through the city’s sounds, from psychedelia, electro, disco and beyond.
If this is sounding like a ludicrous amount of sound and narrative to capture in one 50-minute record, you’d be right to raise your concerns. Thankfully, with your narrators one of the most musically gifted septets to emerge from the Manchester scene in recent times, skilled in a wild array of instruments from synths to saxophones, cellos to clarinets, and each equipped with a worldly-wise knowledge of pop, jazz, psych, funk, folk and beyond; you can put your faith in the Bethlehem Casuals to pull it off. With a sonic smorgasbord up their sleeves, Bethlehem Casuals can veer from sounding one-moment like a brassed-off Steely Dan who’ve not only lost their number but the plot too; the next, a Madness who’ve been caught with their baggy trousers down and revelling in every moment of it.
True to the concept, their upcoming album sees the Casuals nod to the sounds of Manchester’s multifarious scenes of old, but also blow them wide-open with their own eccentric and far-flung influences. The jazzy refrains of album opener “80s Something” lure the listener in with a trip down Baker Street, before descending into the kind of loose-limbed punk-funk Ian Dury would be proud to beat with his rhythm-stick. And as ‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ yarn unfurls, there’s sonic meanderings through Welsh folksong and frantic kraut rock in the unpredictably euphoric 9-minute offering “The Passion” (of which current single “Flaccid Passion” is an extract). Elsewhere, the sozzled bar-room blues of “Street Dog” showcases a more stripped-back side to the band awash with tequila teariness one moment and unexpected time-changes the next. Relentless rock effort ”The Drink” follows, with guitars, cello and vocals all firing in unison, before rising to a cacophonous saxophone solo with the potential to broadside a Night Boat to Cairo. The Casuals sign-off with the infectious, unapologetic pop singalong of “Change”. From its soupy mutant jazz origins to its dancefloor splitting cosmic disco tempo-shifts, “Change” stumbles in like Steely Dan sweating with an unexpected bout of Saturday Night Fever, and staggers out with an audacious disco exit that very nearly refuses to accept its closing time.
So how does the esoteric erotica of the “Flaccid Passion” video tie into all this, you ask? Will Hearne of the Casuals explains:
‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ album is essentially a children’s storybook. At this point in the story, we find our protagonist with the ghosts of the Hacienda living out the echoes of past raves in his search for Manchester music. The video sees these spirits materialised as moths moshing under the light.”
Filmed and edited by regular Casuals collaborators, Woolgather Films, “Flaccid Passion” is just the beginning. Standby for further sensory-busting developments in the ‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ adventure in the run up to the album’s release on 17th April 2020.
Erudite and experimental, ‘The Tragedy Of Street Dog’ sees Bethlehem Casuals’ brand of sleazy, sultry and saxy oddball pop coming into its own. Mind-bending and musically adept in equal measure, it’s one heck of a ride and a record that casts a fresh and fantastical light on whether a dog’s life is perhaps all that bad after all…
‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ was recorded at Giant Wafer Studios, Llanbadarn Fynydd in May 2019. All tracks on the album were engineered by Saam Jafarzadeh and Ashwin Menon, with mastering by Peter Fletcher.
‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ – Track listing:
River Rat II
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Bethlehem Casuals are a jazz/psych/rock septet based in Manchester. With an eclectic sound that infuses a world of influences, heady grooves and tribal drum circles, the Casuals’ have been dubbed by some as “urban rock styled DIY world music”; but it’s of course open to interpretation.
Gaining momentum with every one of their wonderfully weird releases, the Casuals recently caught the ear of BBC 6Music tastemaker Marc Riley who invited them in for a riotous live session and praised them as: “All over the place in the best kind of way.” With word getting out fast, this summer the group embarked on a Summer that was perhaps a little less relaxed than their namesake would usually allow. Invited to a slew of major festivals, the band hit up the stages of Bluedot to Kendal Calling, Moovin’ to Manchester Jazz, and were even invited to make their Glastonbury debut. They even found the time to host their own biannual shindig! ‘Keep It Casual Fest’ to a sell-out capacity. In Autumn 2019, the Casuals put their festival-tested live chops to the test and left jaws hanging at a series of packed-out headline shows on their ‘Flaccid Passion’ Tour.
After a string of acclaimed singles and studio releases, the band will now release their upcoming album ‘The Tragedy of Street Dog’ in 2020. There are also plans for an illustrated children’s book to accompany the release.
BETHLEHEM CASUALS – WILL RELEASE ‘THE TRAGEDY OF STREET DOG’ – 17th APRIL 2020
LISTEN TO ‘FLACCID PASSION’
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BETHLEHEM CASUALS ARE:
William Hearne // Awen Blandford // Pip Sayers // Joe Woodhouse // George Burrage // Atanas Dochev // William Graham
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