Bamboos, The - Fever In The Road

The Bamboos love shattering expectations. Their quest to not be pidgeon-holed into a single genre continues with the diverse and superbly crafted Fever In The Road. Even after the 9-piece roared into the public’s consciousness with their 2012 release  Medicine Man, and its smash hit “I Got Burned”, they show no sign of resting on their laurels. Medicine Man was renowned for its clean, crisp production and the emergence of Kylie Auldist as a super talent, but  Fever In The Road is The Bamboos taking it to the next level. There’s genuine subtlety to  Fever In The Road. Subtlety that you would have thought possible after witnessing The Bamboos live show, but maybe not from listening to their records, at least up until the release of Medicine Man just last year. While there’s still a ‘big-band’ feel to the tracks, the Bamboos manage to both capture the rawness and energy of their live shows, and show off their intricacies at the same time.

“The Truth” is a perfect example of this new approach. It opens with just gentle piano and Auldist’s powerful, soulful vocals; until tambourine, synth, backing vocals, punchy guitar and even a pumping burst of organ join the mix. It’s layered and intricate but still manages to work in a full-band breakdown, complete with vocals delivered with reckless abandon by Auldist.

“Killing Jar” is both sinister and delicate, strings and hypnotic, throbbing bass combining to create a feel that’s best described as ominous. “Avenger”, with its catchy guitar riff, and the dreamy vocals of singer Ella Thompson is a well-crafted pop number that just screams radio single.

While Fever In The Road is still influenced heavily by jazz and soul, this genre-defying record is as much a nod to pop music as it is to the sound The Bamboos are primarily known for producing. This dramatic shift in sound must stem, at least in part, from a closer working partnership between bandleader and co-producer Lance Ferguson and producer John Castle (Washington, Josh Pyke, Kate Miller-Heidke). Castle’s been described as a bit part player behind the scenes for many records, but that his production work was first formally recognised on Medicine Man can’t be a coincidence.

The other big departure from previous Bamboos records is that Fever In The Road isn’t reliant on a roster of guest artists. Having attracted vocalists such as Tim Rogers, Aloe Blacc, Daniel Merriweather and Washington to perform on Medicine Man, Fever In The Road features only regular vocalists Auldist and Thompson. Although they don’t possess the same star power, Auldist and Thompson’s thrive under the added responsibility, with the vocals proving to be one of the album’s greatest strengths. The greatest surprise of the album might just be how well the two vocalists complement each other. Auldist powerfully picks up the tempo, while Thompson tends to dreamily float over waves of synth. That there’s finally some stability means that this might be the first ‘true’ Bamboos record we’ve heard.

Fever In The Road is a cohesive, genre-defying expectation shatterer. It has a few misses (“Before I Go” never quite takes you where it promises) and might not have as many trumpet-fuelled jams as diehards hope for, but it signals a new future for the nine-piece.

And the future sounds pretty darn good indeed.
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