Album Review: Bop English – Constant Bop

Constant Bop

CONSTANT-BOPReleased 13th April 2015

Words: Jimmy Gallagher

White Denim’s James Petralli’s first solo album has been a long time in the making. A very long time.

In between writing, recording and touring White Denim material, of which there has been a steady flow since 2007’s Workout Holiday, James Petralli has returned to this project time and time again encapsulating his relentless passion for writing and creating.

This project is under the pseudonym Bop English which stems back to a rather charming tale of when Petralli allowed a drifter named Andy Pickett, whom he played music with, to share his college room when Andy fell upon hard times. Bop English is the name that Andy gave to James in dedicating his book, written around that time, as a thank you for all Petralli’s help.

The years taken to build Constant Bop have helped to mold the record into a clinically exuberant mash of genres and styles that flow like a carbonated, babbling brook. Although a number of musicians (TV Torso and Shearwater’s Kevin Schneider) and producers (Jim Vollentine, Ryan Joseph and Matt Oliver) feature on this album, the result is not dissimilar to a White Denim record. Not suprising as the bands members have all lent their talents in delivering their ever extraordinary time signature changes and, in my mind, unrivalled musicianship.

This though, is Petralli’s record and it is a gift of personal endeavour that showcases, not only his versatility in songwriting and guitar playing but his encyclopedic knowledge of music’s evolutionary timeline.

Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control) springs out from behind the piano to set Constant Bop on its way. This 60’s pop offering of dynamism and gusto goes to show that ‘the song’ is paramount to Petralli here. He incorporates harmonies and simple melodies with a succession of intruments, but his unwillingness to compromise the overall sound with self-indulgence means Dani’s Blues is unconvaluted and crisply clean.

Struck Matches sees Petralli take the country/skiffle direction as his rolling, rhyming verse acts as another instrument built on the ever present groovy rhythms. It is short and sharp in the style of Denim’s Drug.

A horn section takes centre stage on Trying, however it is important to note that in the recording of Constant Bop, the contributors were never in the recording studios together at the same time, instead, each part was recorded individually which is curious given the energetically live feel of the album.

James Petralli is an extremely gifted vocalist and on Willy Spends An Evening, his embracing tone glide’s along the track, pitched and timed to perfection. Throughout Constant Bop his voice is settling and warm adding a sense of security to his story telling that is incidentally, more personal to him than ever here (Sentimental Wilderness and Falling At Your Feet).

Perhaps in the past, he has not been given the credit he deserves in this area. His drawl is unique and immediately recogniseable yet he seems to model his voice on a classic American style.

White Denim fans will welcome Constant Bop with relish. All of the band members appear here in some shape or form which accounts for the constant groove from start to finish – The Block/Terebecki partnership blows all of their contemporaries out of the water, yes this is an album recorded piece by piece but one imagines that their improvisation on the record could be telepathic, they know eachother inside out.

Listening to Constant Bop, you can feel the bluster of the opening tracks calm to a warm summer breeze as it carries us along. That is testament to the meticulous production of the album. Subtle affects and echoes at given moments enhance each part to a point of fascination.

Petralli has set the bar very high indeed for any future solo releases with, for me, the album of the year so far.

Listen to Constant Bop here:

 

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