Review: Led Bib – Bring Your Own

Following its Mercury Prize nomination, Led Bib’s fourth album Sensible Shoes garnered an unprecedented amount of critical acclaim from mainstream sources for an artist signed to the ever-reliable (but far from fashionable) Cuneiform label. Whilst I never fully agreed with the hype merchants who hailed them as some kind of hip new saviour of jazz, their energetic and confident synthesis of jazz, rock, bursts of noise and touches of psychedelia that bring to mind the old pioneering Canterbury spirit has definitely helped them inject a little energy into jazz’s twitching corpse.

Bring Your Own builds nicely on the solid foundations of their previous efforts, delivering a sequence of memorable, tightly arranged compositions filled with gutsy and occasionally trippy keyboards, a solid rhymtic backbone and those trademark twin saxes chuckling, squabbling and wailing at each other like bickering siblings. The sound is perhaps a tad rockier than on Sensible Shoes, but there’s still plenty of smooth to counterbalance the rough. When groping for easy comparisons, Elton Dean-era Soft Machine and Gong’s jazzier moments are probably the most fitting (though it should be pointed out that there are gaps in my jazz knowledge you could herd a dozen elephants through). The compositions all clock in at under seven minutes, yet most are packed with enough twists and turns to stop your ears from ever getting too comfortable with them. Led Bib fastidiously avoid getting locked into tedious jams, which is much to their credit.

My only real gripe with this record is that keyboardist Toby McLaren rarely gets an opportunity to really strut his stuff. On “Little x” he lays down a particularly fine solo that demonstrates he’s more than a match for Grogan and Williams’ duelling alto saxes, but for the most part he is relegated to providing off-kilter textures and other supporting roles, leaving the saxes to pump out the lion’s share of the riffs and solos. It’s a fine formula, and Led Bib clearly adhere to the well-worn adage of “if it ain’t broke…”, but I can’t help wishing they’d let McLaren off the lead just a little more often this time around.

In short, this album is not a revolution. It’s not even a revelation (at least, not to anyone who’s heard any of Led Bib’s previous offerings), but this is a band with nothing much to prove. Instead, they have delivered another fine release, full of charming, wild and idiomatic compositions played with lashings of gusto, skill and downright love. It’s obvious just how much fun these chaps are having and it’s hard not to be won over by it. Bring Your Own is every bit the match of its predecessor, and perhaps (in this reviewer’s humble opinion) even a tad superior.

Bring Your Own was released today on Cuneiform Records.

One Response to “Review: Led Bib – Bring Your Own”
  1. Apparently they are amazing live – my friend saw them recently 🙂

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