Bikini Atoll Expanded Two Two


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Bikini Atoll (MP3), MP3 (£7.99)

Nowadays I suppose would-be Pop Stars post a video on You Tube and wait for the man with the big cigar to offer them a career of fame and poverty. But back in 1982 cassettes were still being lobbed in the general direction of unsuspecting moguls and generally being roundly ignored. But when Bill Glancy and Gus Campbell sent theirs to Chiswick Records it was greeted with open ears and a deal was struck. Bill and Gus had cut the demo in their home studio, so rather than lavish vast sums of cash on them, which would doubtless have been wasted on riotous living, Chiswick upgraded their studio. This left them free to work up the basic recordings at their leisure and these were subsequently taken to some of the top London studios The Roundhouse and Wessex for overdubbing, some spit and polish and mixing.

The first single came out on 12th February 1982. ‘Insufficient Data’ is a wonderfully busy funk disco record that Sounds said ‘knocks spots off Spands’. It was certainly a lot wittier and also arrived eight months before Wham debuted with a similar idea but Two Two were unfortunately a shuttlecock short of a chart position.

Undeterred, the follow up ‘Kawagayo’ emerged in June and made NME single of the week, described as ‘singing and swinging quite delightfully’ and they weren’t wrong. This came out a full five years before World Music emerged and just as there were rumblings of interest in African music. The record featured the fabulous South African Xdonga style backing vocals of Stevie Lange, one of the top session singers.

The epic ‘King Solomon’s Mines’ followed in October and was once more looked upon favourably by the NME (‘rousing chorus and coolly humorous lyrical sensibility’). This continued the African theme, though the song itself is a wry commentary on the Deborah Kerr, Stuart Granger movie of Ryder Haggard’s book. Bill and Gus had spent part of their youth in Kenya and so the Swahili they sing in came easily to them.

Though lauded in the music press, the singles did not catch the ears of the great Radio One listening public, despite some play from that quarter. And so the album that was beautifully hand-crafted and produced by Clash engineer Jeremy Green at Wessex Studios only saw the light of day in Germany. So now the rest of the World has a chance to hear this great lost Chiswick LP, here expanded to include all of the single B-sides and ‘Africa (Living in the Headlines), which we believe is debuting here, though these is a rumour it made it onto the flip of a German 45 of ‘Alone Tonight’.

Alongside the African aspect there is a reggae feel running through the album, but with a terrific pop sensibility and some very sweet melodies. It has a full handsome sound to it as well having just crept in at the dawn of the clacky drum machine and the aural sins committed in the name of pop music throughout that decade. So the human feel is there with some sterling session performances from trombonist Annie Whitehead and organist and one-time Atomic Rooster Vincent Crane. This was the beginning of the end of the era of performed pop music as opposed to programmed pop music. It was not always perfect, but it was always genuine.

So welcome to the Bikini Atoll 30 years on but not sounding its age at all.

By Roger Armstrong


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