Bad Penny Opera (BPO) is the second LP to be released by The Cherry Bluestorms (TCB), the 60’s Brit indie-rock driven duo consisting of Texan Deborah Gee, a truly sweet and oh so sultry songstress who perfectly complements the colourful cool composure of her TCB counterpart Glen Laughlin, who you might know from his time spent with legendary punk outfit The Dickies.
Their psychedelic, accessible debut LP Transit of Venus impressed me to the point of no return and yes, I now hypocritically return and succumb to a second helping of TCB magic, which chronicles our protagonist Bad Penny’s London-bound, post-relationship search for a new life. Taking in the sights and sounds of Britain’s 60s rock scene as she goes, Bad Penny makes good as she goes!
Now, some of the titles on BPO might afford us insight into the band’s affection for the recently resuscitated Madchester scene, but TCBs love for The Charlatans (UK) is what shines brightest herein. This eulogistic journey back to the musicianship of yesteryear is peppered with charismatic cast-members who animate and enliven this cyclic concept album at every opportunity.
Opening with the ‘Up to our Hips’ era Charlatans-resounding ‘Bad Penny Overture’, this easy-going groove-driven track draws you in close and stirs little desire for sonic scrutiny as it does, until a drawn-out, solo-strong outro stands up to demand your outright attention.
Soft and understated ‘By Your Leave’ offers many a Rumer-worthy flash of innocence amidst the awesome Hammond-proud sounds. Coming in at two and half minutes, the track is over almost as quickly as it began, affording listeners little chance to fully appreciate its simplistic brilliance.
‘A Better Place’ comes across as something of an anthem desperate to astound, but the brass-derived highlight that comes midway in the form of a casual, carefree horn solo is all too short-lived. With lyrics being effectively repeated it serves up the first real enticer and leaves us wanting more.
Covering Donovan’s ‘Wear Your Love Like Heaven’ is a bold move for anyone aiming for hip or grasping at relevance these days, so you can imagine my delight at discovering a solid, feel good rendition that screams quality, particularly with each of Gee’s vitality-fuelled vocals.
‘A True Heart Wears A Thorny Crown’ offers thinly veiled homage to ‘North Country Boy’, a Charlatans track I hold little love for, but that said, this track undoubtedly adds another ass-shakingly good classic to TCBs back-catalogue; if indie-driven delight is what you’re after… you got it!
It could be the shifting drive or a meandering sense of direction that stirs uncertainty throughout ‘Sunday Driving South’. Calmness, calamity and conflict combine throughout an emotive track that keeps you guessing at the outcome. Ken Kesey references are always welcome in my house too!
‘The Country Man’ and its fresh-sounding multi-track vocals immediately reignite our appreciation levels, but it needs no studio gimmickry in order to hold its own, no sir-ee! Any track that closes with the word rhododendron is already onto a sure winner, right?!
Upping the ante, ‘World Going Mad’ annoyingly escalates anticipation levels, before ambling around on its way to the end of the track… at least that’s what it wants you to think! It’s a real yet repetitive treat and realising midway that the track’s end isn’t quite as nigh is expected is a closing bonus.
‘As Above So Below’ stomps its way into the proceedings to lovingly set the stage for Laughlin’s licks that serve up yet another hand-clap, foot-tap and even head-nod happy track. I suspect the word infectious could be appropriate, but I’m too busy keeping myself and this LP to myself!
A somewhat feeble ‘London Bridge’ serves up some sonic respite, which lets us to take a little premature breather whether we want to or not! Fear not friends, for the flames of format familiarity that brought us thus far, will soon be fanned and flaring around us once more. ONWARD!
‘To Love You Is A Crime’ comes crashing in, before subsiding into a luscious vocal-led tale of self-devaluation that mildly stirs more offbeat offerings once made by The Beatles. Here’s another track that’s over before the separate parts of its composition can be fully appreciated.
‘Start Again’ takes us right back to the cold stone cobbles of London just as much as any lamp-lit Liverpudlian canal. The music pleasingly upholds a Gerry and the Pacemakers sentimentality whilst a perfectly delivered, timeless and stylized vocal transports us to those former days of glory.
‘Bad’ is the beloved bastard son of our equally enthralling opening track, which impresses its incestuous similarities on the listener; it’s a great LP closer that piles on all the lyrical prowess of its predecessors, leaving behind a underpinning pining for the repeat button… it’s simply brilliant.
If you’re no prouder a TCB fan after hearing this album, you owe it to yourself to give it a second chance, perhaps when your head’s elsewhere and you’ve undergone some open (your) heart surgery! Tune in, drop out and admire the lyrics as you go to get a proper handle on this lovingly crafted LP.
You can hear some of the above sounds, as well as some older, equally awesome tracks by visiting their Soundcloud page and for more info and further insight into a fantastic band, go visit TCB website, like them via their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter, I promise you won;t regret it!
Finally, all applicable thanks to whoever took the above photos!