Being a cult star is a cruel position for anyone. As soon as you hear the person in question mentioned, expectation are risen that extra notch, you just expect that little bit more and, if all fails miserably, then the backlash is ferocious.
Luke Haines has never disappointed to date. The Auteurs were one of the most criminally underrated British bands of the past decade and when he formed Black Box Recorder, it seemed another sad case of deja vu... until 'The Facts Of Life' was released.
Now, the band have released a collection of all their singles, b-sides and fully uncut videos they have made to date so people can catch up on what they missed before THAT release.
As any Auteurs/BBR fan knows, you don't listen to them for an uplifting, happy experience... this is a band who tell you how it is with no bull... plain, simplistic, basic... lyrics stripped down to the bare essentials.
From the opening strains of their haunting interpretation of Terry Jacks' 'Seasons In The Sun' you know you are on to something special. The band have a way of making you feel uneasy... maybe it is the subtle, slightly distorted musical arrangement or Luke's voice in a lower tone behind the main vocal of Sarah Nixey or maybe it is just the aura of the band in general and it is not that easy to pinpoint.
Cover's of Bowie's 'Rock 'N' Roll Suicide & 'Uptown Top Ranking' by Althea & Donna are given the BBR treatment, the later being completely unrecognisable from the original reggae hit.
Tracks like 'Lord Lucan Is Missing' stick out when they switch from the sombre tones commonly associated with BBR to the rock choruses more associated with Haines former band.
The videos more then fit the bill for the tracks they associate to. The sexually charged video for 'Facts Of Life' with Sarah as a sultry teacher or 'The Art Of Driving' with Luke and Sarah as crash dummies are class in their own right, but one video sticks out...
The video for 'Child Psychology', a tale of a childs ageing and the subsequent emotional traumas that they endure, with Sarah in a bath in a middle of a meadow with herself aged 7 or 8 in the bath with her just adds to the emotional content of the lyrics... there is something really uncomfortable about an 8 year old child telling you 'Life Is Unfair, Kill Yourself Or Get Over It!', but then, you expect nothing less from BBR, compromise is not in their vocabulary.
Black Box Recorder are one of the bands that will probably never get the recognition they deserve, but the band are not after wide spread adoration... they do what they do, and they do it amazingly well. Take the emotional rollercoaster the band offer, but be warned, there are many more downs then ups on the ride that BBR offer.
8Colin Weston's Score