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Filled With the Vigor of Revival – BMX Bandits Return With Invincible New Album “Dreamers on the Run”

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Delicate but indominable, there’s something in the Scottish pop spirit that cannot be gainsaid. Through every thick and every thin it tends to persevere, not so much regardless of tribulations but actively, if quite deftly, in spite of them, tackling adversity in a way that makes it seem as if it’s simply another tumble on the scrum, albeit with chords and timeless melody in place of muscle and mud.

But wait. Just about that entire construction could be upended and still hold its contradictory water, which is to say that whatever perceived emotional toughness attributed to those artists behind the tartars and burrs of that proud and more roughly-hewn country, there is in fact an innate tenderness, and while arguably more or less true of most musician/songwriters, this duality seems especially pronounced in the Scots. Be it the Skids, the Associates, even Altered Images, these competing states of play as often as not would seem gently at war with each other.

Put another way, and more pertinent to our purposes here, whereas there seems, even with – if not more pointedly so – The Jesus and Mary Chain, a vulnerability lurking beneath the fringes, in the case of BMX Bandits and its primary driver since its inception in the mid-80s Duglas T. Stewart, it would appear a measure of resilience, thin maybe but strong as tungsten, underlies the guy’s ostensibly pacific creative nature, a premise that could not be more acutely drawn as it is on this latest full-length Dreamers on the Run (their twelfth), released this past Friday, April 26th on the formidable Tapete label, a claim made especially salient by the album’s complicated history.

Initially gestated in 2014 when Duglas was overtaken by the idea of essaying in a single album what is the essence of an artist’s challenge, ie existing amidst the dreamstate parameters inherent to their craft, their job, while simultaneously managing to walk about the so-called real world with all its decidedly inartistic ills and distractions that range from the mundane to the mildly absorbing to the outright ominous. What that remit in mind Stewart took to the task of writing the songs that would wrap themselves around that concept and even got so far as booking shows to workshop those early efforts in a live setting when of a sudden his body rebelled, his health declined which in turn led to the cratering of his mental state and the entire house of hopeful cards collapsed about him in what must have seemed like seconds.

Burrowing in as one would, the songwriter slowly navigated a path back to some level of normalcy both physical and emotional and then of course came Covid with all its lockdowns and silence at which point he was enough recovered to take on a commission to provide the soundtrack for the indie soft-horror movie Dreaded Light for which Duglas turned to fellow songwriter and mega-multi-instrumentalist Andrew Pattie (who’d been supplying guitar for BMXB for some time) to act as his primary collaborator and, with Pattie on board the the movie work finished, that seed that had been so abruptly uprooted ten years prior was, with some fortuitousness, replanted and the results, the fruits if you will, are happily before us today in the form of Dreamers on the Run. 

Filled with the vigor of revival but tender with it, the album is not so much a paean to survival as it is to the faith survival requires, a faith that runs like a sort of poetry through our blood that we shy away from at our souls’ own peril. From the title track that opens the record with a tip-toeing grace before swelling into full-on BMX Scottish pop bloom, through the instantly addictive syncopation of the Pattie-penned “Setting Sun,” idyllic but sharp as a cut diamond, the slyly complex love song “Cockerel’s Waiting” with its springtime strings cozied up against both ‘ye matey-‘ and Rudy Valley-style vocal interjections that, in its understated cleverness, presents as perhaps this album’s most thematically central tracks, the Hollyesque shuffle that animates “Hop Skip Jump (For Your Love), through the spry if subtle pop classicism of “The World Was Round” to the short, sweet, game console-based “Digital Dreamers” that ends the album on a note as playful as it is poignant, there’s simply nowhere to go wrong here as Stewart and the indispensable Pattie bring to fruition the still remarkable instincts the former has relied upon to bring us a measure of pleasant-but-challenging pleasure for nigh on forty years now.

All said then a soul-baring journey that, while suitably rife with expected Caledonian pop charms, is without doubt one of the most innovative so-called ‘indie pop albums’ we’ll hear this year and quite likely next as well. Don’t miss it.

[pick up your phsyical copy here in vinyl or CD format, get it digitally here] [band photo: Harrison Reid]