Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Corduroy Boy: Best of the Bohemian Underground Movement

A curious story this, one which spans the best part of a decade and borders on the lines of being an elaborate practical joke.

      A freshly employed A&R man, at East London’s Acid Jazz Records, was working on his first project (a compilation of funky organ numbers) when someone opened an envelope containing a band demo (complete with a professionally printed sleeve); the disc contained just one tune (a funky organ number) which was played in the office, everyone agreed that ‘it was good’ and should make the playlist for the comp.
      A similar coincidence occurred whilst compiling his next project, a psychedelic album; again a nicely presented CD arrived in the post, a different band this time (psychedelic), and again the track made the cut.
       This happened over the course of the next five compilation albums. No one became suspicious that whenever a new album was released, it just so happened, that a new and unheard of band materialised just in time to be included on the final running order. That was until somebody received a mechanical copyright statement, a detailed list of all of the composers featured on the label that year; one name appeared over and over again, the A&R man’s name (the former bass player from Corduroy) -  Richard Searle.

It transpired that this, ‘Corduroy boy’, had included himself, at least once, on every release that he had compiled for the label, sometimes featuring as many as six times on the same album, always under different names and never repeating the same name twice. No clues were given other than the occasional line of label copy (in small print) near the end of the sleeve credits, such and such is ‘a member of the Bohemian Underground Movement’.
      No tracks were ever released by this mysterious Bohemian Underground Movement as such, it being the ‘umbrella’ organisation to which each of the non-existent bands belonged; it's official acronym,‘bum’, was silly, slightly rude and totally fictitious.    

This ‘digital only, double CD, greatest hits box set’ (so it says on the press release) contains twenty-four of the thirty or so tracks released by B.U.M through Acid Jazz Records; it is relentless in its ambition, profoundly weird in its execution, and a very strange listening experience in total.
Stylistically the selection ranges from garage freak-outs (The James Coburn Cool, Groovy Ruben, Jenson Interceptor), whimsical folk songs (Wicca’s World, The Mauve), kitsch instrumentals (Action Band, Kitchener) to funky head-nodders (Soldiers Of Soul, Executive Sweet) but always with an air of the strange about them, a hint of the ridiculous. Some tracks are simply beyond categorisation (The Jugs, nut). There are comparative ‘easy listening’ moments amidst the weird time changes and psychedelic onslaught (Thrush, Illusion of Groove) but all in all, this expansive collection, although undeniably entertaining, smacks of the absurd.
       Maybe that’s the point, if you are in with the joke, then you too are a member of the mysterious Bohemian Underground Movement.

The very best of the Bohemian Underground Movement is available here:

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