Monday, 6 December 2010

Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band Pour l'Amour Des Chiens (3.5*)


Had I still been polluting the airwaves on local community radio in early 2008 there's little doubt Hughesy would have been much more proactive in tracking down this album by the reformed Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.

The Bonzos were, after all, one of Hughesy's all-time favourite musical aggregations, and arguably received more than their fair share of airplay on Fools Gold and High Class Music.

Even though the late and extraordinarily great Vivian Stanshall would be impossible to replace as such, at the time I noted the presence of New Millennium Bonzos Adrian Edmondson, Stephen Fry, and Phill Jupitus alongside most of the surviving members of the original line up.

Those three Viv-substitutes were, as far as I could gather, recruited to tackle some of the Viv bits in live performance, and I had some reservations about their possible contributions to a new studio recording.

The absence of the decidedly eccentric Mr Stanshall means, of course, that there'll be a decided lack of what I'd tag the sweet essence of giraffe factor, those linguistic elements that could only be described as coming from somewhere in an alternative reality somewhere beyond the outer reaches of left field.

Fortunately, when you look at the original Bonzos' four album discography it's fairly easy to distinguish between Gorilla, their first album made when they were operating in what amounts to warped vaudeville ragtime trad jazz novelty territory and those that followed, which were substantially headed towards the further reaches of faroutness.

While the Pour l'Amour Des Chiens lineup includes long time Bonzos Neil Innes, Roger Ruskin Spear, Rodney Slater and 'Legs' Larry Smith, the return of Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, Martin 'Sam Spoons' Ash, and Bob Kerr brings some of the elements that went missing around The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse back into the mix.

That's not to suggest Pour l'Amour Des Chiens amounts to Son of Gorilla. It's more the forty-years on mutant half-brother of Gorilla, with some shared DNA and a bit of different genetic material.

Much of what's on offer comes from the prolific pen of Neil Innes, starting with eleven of the album's twenty tracks as sole credits along with another three co-writes, but while it's the old school Bonzos claiming most of the spotlight, the album's highlight is Edmondson’s Beautiful People, a marvellously mean-spirited little singalong advocating the mass slaughter of anyone who's too beautiful, intelligent, glamorous or desirable so the unwashed masses can have the world to ourselves.

While Pour l'Amour Des Chiens might not be everyone's cup of tea, if you're a fan of gently eccentric English humour you might just find this worth investigating. While it lacks the Stanshall-inspired surrealism of the later Bonzos, there's something rather charming about a rendition of Tiptoe Through the Tulips featuring a percussion solo on the polyphonic flowerpots which is, apparently, anxiously watched by percussionist Sam Spoons' better half.