If a band keeps it together for long enough music isn’t just made, it grows. Bilge Pump are at that point with ‘We Love You’, their first album in ten years and perhaps their most accessible one to date, accessible only because people are admitting that they were ready for them all this time, listening to the likes of Marc Riley and taking notice. Long term linchpins of the Leeds DIY scene, they now follow their own paths; growing veg, running up hills, building musical paraphernalia. Every now and then the call goes out; the time comes to do another tour, put another record out. With new album ‘We Love You’ out now via Gringo Records, Bilge Pump unveiled a new single, ‘Wheel of Yew’ – it’s PiL bass lines, Spacemen 3 guitar and a blistering Butthole Surfers-esque solo are all held together with the tightest drumming this side of Bill Ward. They have spent a while getting this album right, writing songs that describe a world where the council lets it rot and the kids make trouble, or sometimes music. A guy goes into a shed to build a guitar pedal and accidentally invents a time machine, ending up millennia back thinking about his future ex’s.
Complex drum and bass arrangements emerge and the songs have to be reconsidered. The guitar needs something… better build a couple of amps to get that just right. This stuff doesn’t come off the shelf. Back to the monolithic rhythm section, Finally Emlyn disappears up to his bedroom and records the vocals. Listen carefully and you can hear the cars drive by his window, and who let the cat on the mixing desk?
‘The Passion Of The Kid’ is a live favourite developed out of Can style, four and a half hour jam. Featuring a relentless two note bass line, that somehow never gets boring, it provides the backbone for a lyrical diatribe on Brexit Britain, namely Armley in Leeds, culminating in the refrain; “The Lord giveth, The Lord taketh away”.
On ‘Me No Like’, commentary is offered on the futility of the modern working man, “Ask anyone getting smashed in here, ‘How agreeable do you find wearing a shirt and tie?'”
‘Mancana de la Discordia’ follows a similar theme, a scenario of being reduced to spending an enforced holiday staring at a wall, reflecting upon life and the edibility of the fridge’s contents. Ending on the ominous line “The Lord knows what I can see”.
For Bilge Pump, who first formed in 1996, this isn’t a career, it is more important than that, feeling the right moment, not forcing it. Drummer Neil Turpin says “A gig is good when the rhythm created and projected propels the crowds arms and legs, looping into a glorious reciprocal exchange of energy.” So they never need a set list, they just simply call out the first song then trust each other to go where they should be.
Anyone who has ever seen them will tell you they are loud. But loud and clear, defined patterns, riffs smoulder into drones and then catch fire again lyric’s trimmed of fat, precise and witty. Listen to these songs and its feels like being in a pub whilst your mate recounts ludicrous theories and romantic woes. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry and in the background the juke box belts out a mix of Queen, Neil Young, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Pil, King Crimson and The Shangri La’s, half heard above the din so you keep filling in the bits you missed with your own.
And is there a message, imprecise, personal, political?
Maybe this; “It costs us nothing to exist and we keep on making music when we want to”. They explain.
Just like a stone circle in the rain. Why’s that there? Always has been. Why? Don’t know, but you can shelter underneath while you’re waiting for the bus, and listen to this album on your headphones.