A couple of years back I reviewed Bermondsey Joyriders’ first album, a lo-fi-lower-than-a-snakes-belly, spit n’ sawdust blues-punk explosion. The songs were good, the energy levels high, and the sheer self-belief hinted that these cockney geezers were onto something even if it took a couple of spins to get past the raw production. Since then, a great deal of shows have been played, a Spinal Tap-esque array of drummers have been and gone, and all went relatively quiet for a while. Fortunately that was merely the calm before the storm because in 2012 the Bermondsey Joyriders are back like a souped-up Ford tearing up the Old Kent Road, releasing what might just be the album of the year. Not just the blues-punk concept album of the year, but the album of the year.
The concept itself involves the tale of greedy property developers, corrupt public figures, and a punk rock band here to save us all but tempted by the glory of rock n roll superstardom. Narrated by John Sinclair of MC5 fame, and brimming with great songs, it is a compelling listen. ‘Society is rapidly….changing!’ they yell in the eponymous pedal-to-the-metal stab-it-and-steer opening number, before ranting about hospital buildings being sold off to hamburger chains and libraries turning into computer game vendors (a first in the history of rock n roll lyrics as far as I’m aware) . From there on in the listener is sent on a musical journey taking in all manner of twists and turns. The structure and flow of the album works really well, a mixture of styles and tempos, with a heavy 1960s vibe in a couple of places (most noticeably in the garagey ‘Shakin Leaves’) and straight-up 1977 punk rock in others (as, in, errr ‘1977’). Some of the songs are how I’d imagine The Kinks to sound, had they formed in the midst of the punk explosion, whilst the overall flow of the album brings to mind another classic British concept album, the Small Faces’ ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ (albeit with more streetpunk swagger than the whimsical psychadelia of Steve Marriot and Co’s Unwin narrated classic).
There’s not much new in punk rock but Bermondsey joyriders manage here to sound pissed-off, rebellious and vital, whilst having a few laughs along the way. Yes, throughout is a sense of humour and ability to entertain that sets this apart from many of their peers. It’s loud and it’s pissed off, but there’s an attention to detail that will make you keep coming back for repeated listens and discover something new each time. Best of all, listen out for some lyrical gems, such as the rhyming of ‘Johnny Cash’ with ‘Joe Strummer from the Clash’ in the aforementioned song, ‘1977’.
So, do The Bermondsey Joyriders save the world from the corrupt corporate authorities, or do they succumb to the temptations of the jet-setting, yacht-sailing, champagne and Bolivian marching powder snorting lifestyle that comes with being the saviours of rock n’ roll? Buy the album and find out, and…… enjoy the ride!