Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Bureau @ The Sound Bar, Birmingham, Friday 3rd October 2008

It's 'gig season'. There are loads of the buggers. Take tonight for example, on top of the weekly Kamikaze! night you had your pick of The Heritage Orchestra at The Town Hall, Bob Log III at the Kings Head and Amanda Palmer at Space 2. Oh...and this lot of course. To be honest it was a a close call. Amanda Palmer nearly had it, but by the time we'd dragged ourselves down to Space 2 (8 o'clock-ish), the first band were nearing the end of the set. I hate missing the first band. It's like missing the first half of a film. I always feel really sorry for the opening act too when loads of people come in just as they're finishing. Damn rude. So, off we went, back up to The Sound Bar for The Bureau. Who I hear you ask? Well, sit ye down and I'll tell ye. Many moons ago there was a damn fine band called Dexy's Midnight Runners. Before they 'came on Eileen' they produced one of THE greatest British albums of all time, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. I think its fair to say that lead singer Kevin Rowland was/is what you'd call a single minded chap. It appears that this 'single mindedness' led to a bit of a barny. Bugger this for a game of soldiers said the rest of the band and they went off and formed The Bureau together with a certain Mick Talbot (later one half of The Style Council).

The Bureau had a number 6 smash Australia...the debut album was only released in a couple of countries (not the UK) and that was that. However, in 2004/5, some bright spark at WEA decided to release the debut album, most of the band reunited for a couple of smallish gigs and the seeds of a new album were sown. The result, wrily entitled "...and another thing" is out now, hence the three live dates that they're doing in support. This was the first one...and only the fourth time they'd played together since the early 1980's, making this a pretty rare sighting. The fact that one of them lives (I believe) in the good old US of A makes the prospect of more regular dates rather doubtful. So, enough of the potted history. In the absence of the much talked about new Dexy's album, this is as close as you're ever going to get to the band that recorded Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. Whoohoo! But here's the $700billion question (topical eh? oh, alright then please yourselves)...were they any good. Yes. There you go. Review over. Off you trot. There's nothing to see here. wanted a bit more than that did you? Balls.

Well, shut your eyes and, on some tracks, musically speaking you're right back in 1980 classic era Dexy's all over again. That brass sound is just so damn uniquely Dexy's. That's the strength and, to some degree, the flawed genius of The Bureau. You're just waiting for Mr Rowland's yelpy vocals to kick in. Of course, they don't. The Bureau's lead vocalist is a chappie called Archie Brown. There's nothing wrong with his voice. In fact, over the past 27 years or so, it's taken on a lovely rich quality that, truth be told, it kind of lacked back in 1981. As a passionate Dexy's fan it's just so hard to see The Bureau as a separate entity. My problem, not theirs, I guess. That being said, the gig was a triumph from start to finish. Blending old material with the new stuff they played for a good 90 minutes or so and delivered blistering versions of Sentimental Attachment, The First One and Sheep (from back in the day) as well as new album highlights including Run Rabbit Run and A Fine Mess Rag (think The Courtesy Group meets Dexy's...brilliant). The place wasn't packed but there was a pretty good turn out, the diehards loved it and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. History's not been kind to The Bureau. They really do deserve more attention (so do Dexy's come to that). Of course it will take more than a few dates to get the message out there. Who knows if they're up for it, I hope they are. Older soul rebels they may be, but The Bureau kick ass.

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