Sunday night in a BBQ joint in a suburb of Birmingham that has ideas above its station is a funny place to start a review perhaps, but nonetheless, it was here last autumn when Big Boy Bloater announced this record.

“We sold enough copies of the last one,” he smiled, “so the record company is going to let us make another.” He even played a few songs off what was to become “Pills” that night, and as we observed on these pages then –  and even seven months later it seems the most apt thing to say – no one writes songs like the Big Boy.

That much has always been clear, but right from the R n B infused – the good 60s rocking sort, not the shite on Radio in the 21st century – title track, it is a racing certainty that here, the three piece have found some higher gear.

Songs about the over-prescription of drugs (a subject that may be close to home given his battles with mental health) aren’t meant to be catchy. Forget what’s meant to be. Just deal with what is happening.

“Friday Night’s Alright For Drinking” manages to be almost as good as its Elton John near- namesake (come on, Elton achieved rock n roll perfection on that one, right?) and buzzes with a bass throb before opening up with one of the catchiest soul-filled choruses anywhere hereabouts, while “The Saturday Night Desperation Shuffle” – a track that immediately stood out when played at the aforementioned gig – is a tale of horny desperation (not something I’d know anything about……) but it also exemplifies another point that might be easily forgotten: so good are these songs you almost forget that BBB is one of the finest guitar players around.

The way he weaves such differences throughout this collection is astonishing. “Stop Stringing Me Along” is unashamed 60s pop – the fact it seems to be about the sharks in the music business is neither here or there. It shines as if the fact he’s still here is the best revenge.

“Unnaturally Charming” struts its funky stuff with aplomb. Bloater’s gravel vocals, and a dark heart to the lyrics captures the essence, that they follow it up with a summer anthem to lazy blokes who hate their jobs everywhere, “Slackers Paradise” (not something I’d know anything about either, you understand….) is a wonderful example of the extremes here.

That continues throughout. “Mouse Organ” is somewhere between The Urban Voodoo Machine and Tom Waits, “Oops Sorry” is like some cut from a mythical third disc from “The River” – or at least would be if Springsteen had wrote a break-up song with the line: “I’ll take the dog, you keep the kid” at its heart.

“She Didn’t Even Buy A Ticket” – a true tale of a woman who crashed one of Bloaters gigs to confront her cheating husband – slinks with bluesy intent, “This Ain’t Rufus” is a fun freak out, but it’s the last two that encapsulate everything that’s so very good about the record.

“Digital Number Of The Beast” – getting bonus points for an Iron Maiden title nod, natch – is a look into a dystopian future: “super AI gonna kill us all, until then, we’re gonna have ourselves a ball” and while we’re partying until the rapture comes we could do worse than heed the warnings on the acoustic “A Life Full Of Debt”. An attack on consumerism (“they kept on working to buy more stuff, no matter how much they had it was never enough”) it may, without being to deep about what is actually just an exceptional record, contain the very point to all of this.

Namely that albums like this don’t get made if you are unable to take the blinkers off, to think outside the norm, to stop the pursuit of unattainable goals and spend your time chasing the latest trends. They do get made if, like Bloater, you pay no attention to the rules. “Pills” is the cure for all that, and in all honesty, it is probably the best record of the year so far.

Rating 10/10


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