“Pressing The Flesh” album by Bison ©2012
Highly acclaimed Sheffield based Ska band, Bison; after some time away from the scene, with members pursuing individual projects or just getting on with life, have regrouped and produced yet another stonkingly good album to add to their back catalogue.
“Pressing The Flesh” released in 2012 is a slight departure from “Herd Mentality” which was the first of their albums that I bought. The latest release is less full on Ska, although the alternative genres that they explore still bear enough of the Bison feel to mark them out as distinctly the work of this band.
Track Listing is
- Off the Couch 02:05
- Seasick Sam 03:26
- On My Own 03:49
- I Know Your Mum 03:53
- Hot Tub 03:45
- Pressing the Flesh 05:00
- Saving Lives 03:56
- Credit Crunch Carvery 05:23
- Pear Cider 04:14
- Daniel Denial 06:42
- Move Your Feet 03:21
- Be My Valentine 03:50
- Cold Fingers 03:40
Among these tracks “Seasick Sam” is one of the standout tracks, that has been played most on Federal Radio. It is, broadly speaking, a sea shanty with, as previously indicated, a twist of Ska. It follows on from the short opening number “Off The Couch” which could be interpreted as a simple exhortation to get up and dance, but might be a deeper call for less apathy in all aspects of life, especially political.
Similarly “On My Own“, track 3, is what you get if a Ska band tries to play a Charleston, and it works; bizarrely.
Track 4, “I Know Your Mum” is more inside the envelope; hinting at something like “A Message To You, Rudy” the Dandy Livingstone song covered by The Specials 1979, with it’s message that “You think that you are looking like a gangster, you’re not a gangster boy!” all delivered in classic ska style.
The next track, “Hot Tub” starts off with someone singing in the bath, and turns into a cool jazz, lounge song, one can almost see the singer in a luxurious bubble bath on stage, next to a gloss white grand piano, glass of champagne in one hand and one of those big old radio microphones a sort of rounded off cuboid in shiny metal with slots around it… oh blast, I’l get a picture for you … there, you know the sort now?
The next track, “Pressing The Flesh” is a diatribe against our wonderful politicians who, as we know work so tirelessly for the good of the country and the people.
Well of course, they don’t (politicians that is) and the lyrics make that pretty clear “lying to the country, lying to us all”. This track is very much more reggae than ska. As a kid I heard it said that only black people could really play reggae. Yes, people really made that claim in the seventies and they were just as wrong about that as if they had said, no black man could ever be president of the USA.
Track 7 is, as everybody knows, always the stand out track on any album. Except that Bison didn’t know this, so it isn’t. It is however very good and yet another brilliant musical chimera, this time blending a military march with a ska beat. As I listen to the song, I simply long to get a group of dancers, all dressed in army uniformed, and have them try to march to the rhythm. I think the result would be hilarious yet somehow disturbing, and make the basis for a brilliant video.
The lyrics sing about something most of us can relate to, the idiocy of sending soldiers out to fight for peace. There is a delicious, yet pathetic, irony in telling soldiers that by shooting people they thereby “saving lives”
The brass section is key to the overall feel (although special mention must go to the drummer and his rolling snare) at the end the brass plays out the main theme but goes brilliantly off kilter giving the whole thing a very macabre feel.
Track 8 is “Credit Crunch Carvery” about those big cheap pub eateries where families take their kids for all you can eat Sunday lunch. There is a sort of folk music feel to it again with the Bison signature stamped all over it.
Track 9 is in my humble opinion the best on the album. “Pear Cider” is a festival song par excellence. It opens with just a vocal and is joined by a single acoustic guitar as if perhaps an impromptu jam session is just getting started as so often happens at cool festivals.
Lyrically it is pure genius, really painting a picture with lines like Well the kids are painted up and running around, smiles on their animal faces, thousands of people were drifting over as the band on the main stage is warming up” “You realise you’ve not eaten for a day, time for another meal, just burger or fallafel or a chilli and naan or just a mung bean and lentil ice cream” the chorus changing from “Pear cider, just two or three will do” to “just four or five will do” to “just five or six will do” and then the killer punch, as they spoof the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
There are still four tracks left on this album which gives you really good value for money, “Daniel Denial” suffers from following Pear Cider, but it has a gentle charm and is worthy of a better listen than I have managed to give it so far.
“Move Your Feet” has an Americana feel about it, with twangling guitar, and a vocal delivered in a mid-Atlantic accent. It certainly does what it says on the tin and makes you want to move your feet.
“Be My Valentine” brings back that roaring twenties feel of the third track.
The last track on the album is “Cold Fingers” which is a very soft and gentle slow song, ethereal and dreamy.
In conclusion I think that this album establishes beyond all reasonable doubt that, for their genre, Bison are every bit as musically gifted and creative as Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles. I would not consider myself to be an expert on ska music. I was a kid when the ska revival of the late seventies and early eighties came along and made stars of bands like Madness, The Specials, Bad Manners, and The Selecter etc. But if I were to compare Bison to Madness, I would say the later band surpasses them in every respect except success. They have stretched the genre more; not to breaking point, but in a way that strengthens and expands it. Their songs are more varied, and more musically challenging, yet somehow they still manage to be accessible.
My kids, who range in age from six to sixteen are universally fans of Bison. At my son’s tenth birthday party the year before last, I played The Abominator, and made the kids play musical statues to it. This year I played it at his eleventh birthday party and the kids who had not heard it for twelve months all yelled out that they loved this song and could I play it again!