I have loved the Bonzo Dog Band (a/k/a The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) forever. I’d heard them mentioned a bunch of times, so one day in high school I went down to the Tower Records, back when Tower Recordses still existed, and bought a copy of Urban Spaceman (which was the Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse album re-titled for the US with their hit single “I’m The Urban Spaceman” stapled to the beginning) and ended up loving it. Though, as good as that album is, my favorite is Keynsham.
To me, it’s Keynsham (for non-Brits and folks who haven’t hear this record yet, it’s pronounced “Cane-Shm”) that’s the best mix of the Dada silliness and the sheer pop crafstmanship. From the great, almost modern-sounding drum sound on “You Done My Brain In” (which also has a bit of a gay element with the lines “Lookin’ like a muscle man/You crawled out of the swamp/Slimy, wild, you honey child/Give me a hump”, which is just so delightfully blantant and fun), to the title track with some positively Zappaesque electric piano and surreal lyrics, perfect pop songs like “The Bride Stripped Bare by ‘Bachelors’” (name taken from a Duchamp piece), and the somewhat poignant “What Do You Do”, it’s all very art-school but in the very best possible way.
Neil Innes and Vivian Stanshall, the two main writers and vocalists for the Bonzos are writing and performing at their best. Innes’ “Quiet Talks and Summer Walks” is so pretty and Stanshall’s “Sport (The Odd Boy)” is a downright classic, and both quintessentially Innesian and Stanshallian. Of course, it’s more of “We Were Wrong” that’s the Stanshall version of “Quiet Talks” — much more silly and funny, but still with the same amount of musical chops.
Keynsham also has a lot of experiments with samples sprinkled through the album. I believe they’re mostly self-recorded (the dental interlude at the end of “Quiet Talks” sounds to me like members of the Bonzos), but I don’t know for sure. Given the Bonzo’s neo-Dada background and how the sleeve art, both outer and inner, involved collage, I figure it’s just putting collage on the wax itself rather than only the paper that surrounds it — and I love audio collage. I’m not talking about full-on Negativland stuff (though, on a later post-Bonzos single, Neil Innes would experiment with a form of that with “Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues” — which has bits of old songs drifting through the piece — though performed live; it’s sampling in the sense of sampling sheet music rather than recordings) — but it makes the entire album feel like one piece of art with these songs popping up between sounds — and some of the songs themselves have cut-up sounding elements, with lyrics that are chosen more for the sounds than for any sense, and… well, look, I can go on forever about how awesome this album is, but even if I went on for another thousand more pages, it still wouldn’t be worth as much as just listening to this album so go do that right now for reals you guys why are you wasting your time when you could be listening go do it right now now now now now now now now now now