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BMX Bandits - My Chain

Ever since catching Duglas T. Stewart on a bill with Teenage Fanclub and the Vaselines in Glasgow sometime in 1990 I've been a closet BMX Bandits fan. Their revolving line-up over the past 20 years has seen members of Teenage Fanclub, Eugenius, Future Pilot AKA, Soup Dragons...(even Drew Mulholland of Mount Vernon Arts Lab has appeared on releases) pass through their ranks producing classic moments such as 'I Wanna Fall In Love', 'Little Hands', 'Disco Girl', 'Scar'... But their tentative association with the shambolic C86 genre along with their comic name has meant the fickle world of pop has confined them to the periphery - whilst other members have gone onto widespread acclaim, leaving only the wisened to snap up the BMX Bandits releases. Yet the albums Life Goes On, Gettin' Dirty, Theme Park - where they hooked up with legendary LA producer Kim Fowley - and 2003's Down At The Hop have provided sporadic moments of greatness.

The addition of David Scott to the Bandits line-up is a genius move sprinkling Duglas's songs of heartache and woe with lush, piano and keyboard based textures, adding a sophisticated maturity to Duglas's childlike sensitivity. There's an inherent yearning to be found in the Bandits songbook. Duglas is an incurable romantic still seeking to capture and hold on to that elusive love. His songs have an innate simplicity of the type that charmed the sixties girl groups and now with Scott's arrangements the Bandits can boast something of a late period Beach Boys feel to match those gorgeous melodies and beautiful harmonies that adorn their songs.

And what of My Chain? It's a loose concept album based around a slight pirate theme binding the tracks 'A Missing Front Tooth', 'The Sailor Song' and 'The Bold Pirate Kerry'. Though with Duglas at the helm it remains littered with tales of heartache. It's the most satisfying release from the Bandits in some time and in some ways shares an affinity to Duglas's solo Frankenstein release with the material no longer shared between members and there's less emphasis on guitar based songs. Not that they're absent from My Chain - the naughty love games of 'Dot To Dot' is delivered in classic Bandits mode, and the refined elegance of 'The Sailor Song' is bursting with honeyed melodies and keyboard flourishes. Elsewhere there's the unbearable melancholy of 'Not Knowing You' a broken hearted tale set in Glasgow's West End, the oddly poignant 'Cheese and Toast' charting Duglas's nocturnal meanderings about the home - recalling Brian Wilson's day in the life vignettes as found on 20/20 and Friends. There's some real surprises too: the irresistible soul groove of 'Almost Nothing', a tender fashioning of 'Hopelessly Devoted To You' from the Grease soundtrack that fits wonderfully with its sumptuous Bandits delivery, and Daft Punk's 'Something About You' remodelled as an aching love song amidst delicate piano and muffled dance beats.

My Chain is the first BMX Bandits album that truly captures the idiosyncratic (some might say quirky) vision of Duglas T. Stewart. He truly is the captain of the ship. Sail on, sailor. For more information go to www.bmx-bandits.com or www.revola.co.uk