Before I get into how remarkable this record; I just want to touch on how I nearly missed out on tickets for their UK tour. Fortunately, the venue for Manchester got upgraded to Gorilla so I managed to get a ticket. No one should miss out on seeing this band live, so do the right thing and grab a ticket from here: https://www.seetickets.com/tour/bambara (also use Twickets if any have sold out!)
Right, the record.
There’s no set way to describe the sound and style of Bambara that does them justice. Nothing and no one can define them- they are THAT good. ‘Good’ isn’t even strong enough a word to use. Can you tell that I love this band a hell of a lot? I love how their music feels like a Henry Miller novel brought to life. I love the seediness in the songs. I love the poetry. I love the romanticism. I love the way the songs sound. I love how Reid’s voice can sound like a snarl but gentle at the same time. Everything about this new release just oozes perfection. I’m obsessed with every single song. If you don’t get goose bumps from this record, then turn the volume up a bit more!
Feelin’ Like A Funeral is a masterpiece (every song is but this one right now sticks out) and you find yourself going back to it, over and over. Just to really pick up on how stunning the lyrics are. You want to live in the world they have created with this song. In fact, you’ll pretty much feel that way when you listen to all of their songs. You’ll feel like you’ve been downing really strong whisky in a dive bar and you then stumble into the night, with no set place to go. The songs will echo in your brain and you won’t feel alone. Or, you could just stick your headphones on and see where your mind takes you.
The record ends on the euphoric Little Wars. The last minute or so of this song is divine. It becomes heavier and heavier (sound wise) but the vocals add this beautiful softness. It is such a glorious way to end the record and it’s no surprise that you’ll end up playing the record all over again. This mini LP is just a joy to listen to. The lyrics are more personal than on their previous records and that’s just one of the many reasons to not just love this record, but the band. They constantly evolve. The song writing is just a stroke of genius, as always.
What I adore about Bambara is that you simply cannot put their sound next to someone else’s. It is a completely different and unique sound, and I know that is so cliched and bloody typical, but there’s really no other band around that are like them. That’s what makes the band a real joy to listen to; with every listen it is like you are discovering them for the first time. I love the heaviness in their sound and I love the occasional gentleness in the vocals. Put that together and you get a really exciting band. For me, this is the band at their absolute best and of course like any great band- they leave you wanting more and more.
Love On My Mind may only consist of 6 songs, but it is the perfect step into what we’ll get next from them. But before all that, it just makes you so excited for the tour that’s coming up. These songs are going to absolutely rip live. Can you imagine hearing Point And Shoot, and Feelin’ Like A Funeral live? Holy shit!
My love for Bambara is something else. I practically live in my Bambara shirt, and I still think about their show from last year at the Soup Kitchen. I had no expectations from what I was going to witness, but I knew that from their records I was going to witness something that would blow my mind.
Stray was released on Valentine’s Day- the perfect date for this record. Stray is made up of dark, deathly and romantic songs that totally justify my belief that Reid Bateh is one of the best songwriters around. For me he possesses that same genius that Nick Cave has. A fearless approach with unconventional romantic tones. Think Rimbaud, think Baudelaire and mix it with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg- then you’ll get it. My point is this- Reid is an exceptional writer, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if one day, he writes a novel and that novel gets turned into a film with the band creating the score for it. Can you imagine?! It would be insane.
There’s a fair amount of references to death on this record, and you know, it’s something we cannot avoid at all. My enjoyment for things has dipped a bit since losing my Grandma in August, but I’ve found comfort in music. Bambara have reinforced everything I love about music on this record. They just nail everything I love about dark music that is unafraid to expose the things that we try to shy away from. Everything from the production to the order the songs are in on this record is so carefully done, and you can truly hear the growth in the band on Stray. If you’ve seen them live, you’ll know exactly how intense their shows are. Reid is one of the most captivating front men I’ve ever seen. Blaze is up there as one of my favourite drummers of all time and William is so effortlessly laid-back and cool. You wish you could do what each of them do, and not only do they have this presence live but they also have it on record. Stray shows us all why they are one of, if not THE most vital band around.
I can’t possibly pick a favourite song on this record; it’s one of those records that you go back to and with every listen, something else just blows your mind. The record is like one euphoric story that builds and builds. I adore the intense sounds on this record and maybe it has this feel due to Reid and Blaze being twins and having this bond but with William he adds this feel to the band that sort of calms the storm slightly. The way Blaze annihilates the drums and how Reid has this snarl-like feel to his vocals is beautifully wrapped up in how soothing William unleashes his inspiring bass playing, and beyond. All three of them are exceptional musicians, and for me, they do justify this on all of their records, but Stray takes you some place else. It’s another world, and a world you never ever want to escape from. It is such a comforting and powerful record, and the production is out of this world.
Ben & Lily is a prime example of Reid’s songwriting, and how brilliant it is. The way the song flows reminds me a bit of The Bad Seeds’ Thirsty Dog. It also sounds like something you’d hear in an old cowboy film- it’s got a great Spaghetti Western feel to it. Play it loud, and maybe have it on repeat for your next few listens. It feels like a short story, but one you don’t want to end. I just adore the places that Bambara take you and how they can just take you on this ride with them; their music is so soothing and comforting. To others maybe it is too ferocious, but that’s where I find comfort the most.
There is one part of the record from one song in particular that I keep getting drawn to. This is taken from Made For Me: “Lit cigarettes will rain. On a field where horses roam untamed. See you running with them through the flames. Wild flowers in their manes as you lead the stampede my way.” There is something about this that just hits me in the gut. I mean the whole song does, but this part really hits me. I don’t know why, but it’s just so powerful and beautiful. However, if you’re looking for a song to truly break your heart- then listen to Sweat and I mean REALLY listen to it. It’s fucking brutal, and really heavy.
Stray is magnificent, but what else do you expect from a band as powerful as Bambara? Stray is probably going to end up being my most played record of the year. I cannot get enough of it, nor do I want to. I’m happy to have this record on repeat for the foreseeable now. I felt this way about Shadow On Everything, and they’ve done it again with Stray. I feel I could write about this record forever, and ever. Until words become pointless and no longer carry any meaning. An absolute honour to listen to.
I went to this show as someone who casually listened to Bambara; I left as someone who is now obsessed and in awe of what I witnessed in a room that should have been packed.
I think the best way to describe a Bambara show is wonderfully loud and chaotic. As soon as they ripped into their set, I immediately felt like I was watching The Birthday Party for the first time. They have the same raucous sound that is all over the place in the best way possible. I don’t want my music to sound polished or perfect- I want it to be noisy, all over the place and powerful. I got all of that and more from Bambara’s set. They put their absolute everything into their performance, and honestly, Reid Bateh is quite possibly one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. He absolutely puts all he has into the songs, and in a live setting you can truly see just how much this means to him. It’s like he has to get THIS out. I don’t know what “THIS” is exactly, and maybe it’s something we all have in us, but he gets it out in a way that is beautifully enthralling and terrifying at the same time.
Bambara aren’t a band for those wanting roses and sunshine. They are a band for those seeking something to cling to. They’ve toured with two bands that own my heart- IDLES and METZ. Imagine seeing that! It’d be like witnessing something so sacred, and spiritual. I had a great spot at this show, and maybe it was because it wasn’t sold out. It should have been sold out by the way. I could see everything, and I was so fascinated with drummer, Blaze. His style reminded me so much of one of my favourite drummers- Alex Robins. I loved that Blaze’s stage attire was shorts and cowboy boots- if that doesn’t define cool, then I don’t know what does. His style of drumming is intense and captivating. He’s the kind of drummer that a kid would watch and think, “I want to do that.” He made a 32 year old feel that way (me, by the way.) I love how the band all have this sense of solidarity when they play. It feels like a brotherhood (obviously that’s the case with Reid and Blaze!) and this tight sound they have just makes you completely hooked on every sound they make, and every word that Reid sings.
Songs like José Tries to Leave, and brand new song Serafina (which I think they had only played once before maybe?) were just magnificent to watch. With this possibly being the second time they performed Serafina, they nailed it perfectly. I love how Reid thrashing the microphone wire like an out of control lion-tamer, and he definitely reminds you of a very young Nick Cave when he was in The Birthday Party. This was probably one of the loudest shows I’ve been to at the Soup Kitchen- it wasn’t as loud as the times I saw The Jesus And Mary Chain (I couldn’t hear properly for 2 days, but I was stood right by the speaker so…it was to be expected!) Although the venue wasn’t packed, but to be honest sometimes it doesn’t matter you know. Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is there, and Bambara definitely made you feel that way. At times it felt intrusive as you witnessed them leave their absolute everything on stage, but bands that do this just have my complete respect. To be that open on stage is something to really appreciate and admire for sure.
I love how bassist, William completely lets go on stage. Sometimes you see bass players who are holding back and seem to be teetering on letting go, but William is unafraid and just makes you wish you were as cool as him. Bryan and Sammy are INCREDIBLE guitarists; they could easily have blown the amps with how loud they were, and take that with how grand Blaze’s drumming is- then you get the general idea of how wild and loud this show was.
There was something about this show that at the end, I felt like I had got what I needed. I felt some kind of release. I’m not sure what of. I mean today is 2 months since my Grandma died and I’m ready to go back to bed and spend the day crying. But last night, that gig gave me that feeling that you get from your favourite band. It was truly special for so many reasons. I urge you to see Bambara whenever and wherever you can. It’s not just a show, it’s an experience. An experience that will stay on your mind until the next time. Over and over.
Their set ended on Monument, and it was such a high to end on. Of course you wanted more, and you just wanted them to carry on for an eternity but this was just one of the most mesmerising shows I’ve ever been to. Bambara have been around for some time now, and these New York heroes are a band to become majorly obsessed with.
This was my first time seeing the band, and I definitely hope it won’t be my last. Their new record, Stray will be out in February. It’s their fourth record and I reckon it might just be their heaviest to date. I cannot wait to hear it, and can probably call it as one of 2020’s finest records.