1/ Failing Systems (Bogmen,Campion) 4.17 2/ Speedfreak Lullaby (Bogmen,Campion) 3.03 3/ Mexico (Bogmen,Campion) 3.29 4/ Highway of Shame (Bogmen,Campion) 4.19 5/ Mad Larry (Bogmen,Campion) 3.29 6/ Extended Family (Bogmen,Campion) 4.33 7/ Every Man Is An Orphan (Bogmen,Campion) 4.58 8/ Dark Waltz (Bogmen,Campion) 3.33 9/ Sloth (Bogmen,Campion) 3.32 10/ The Cows Ain't Coming Home Tonight (Bogmen,Campion) 4.01 11/ Seadog (Bogmen,Campion) 2.34 12/ Closed Captioned Radio (Bogmen,Campion) 3.59 13/ You Are My Destiny (Paul Anka) 3.01 14/ Untitled Track (Bogmen,Campion) 3.11 Recorded at Orange Studios, West Orange, New Jersey and NG Studios Recorded at Orange Music by Oz Fritz, Jason Corsaro and Jean Pierre Sluys Recorded at NG Studios by Phil Palazzolo, Godfrey Diamond and Kevin Adams Recorded at the Magic Shop by Robbie Adams Track 13 recorded at The Magic Shop Assistant engineers Juan Garcia (mix) and Chaz LaBreque (tracking) Mixed by Robbie Adams at the Magic Shop Produced by Bill Laswell, Godfrey Diamond and The Bogmen Mastered at Masterdisc, NYC by Greg CalbiVic Thrills: vocals, guitar, trash can (13), scrap metal (13), soft aluminum (13); William Ryan: guitar, b.vox, mandolin; P.J. O'Connor: percussion, b.vox, trash can (13), scrap metal (13), soft aluminum (13); Clive Tucker: drums, b.vox; Mrs. Wike: bass, laxatives, b.vox; Brendan Ryan: keyboards, samples, b.vox, mellotron (13); Mark Pender (3): trumpet; Sar Casio Pig 5000 (7): beguine beat; Megan Friend (7): French vocal; Jacek (7): hand claps; Sarah Wendt (13): backing vox; Chris Campion (5): backing vocals.
1998 - Arista Records (USA), 07822-18990-2 (CD)Note: Bill Laswell does not play on this album.
Noah Wane (courtesy of the Splendid Ezine website)
The Bogmen do not buy into the credo that less is more, or any variation thereof. On its second album, the New York City-based sextet has fashioned a full-on sonic assault, layered with guitars, percussion, keyboards, and vocals. Their textures and flavors come from all corners of the rock realm, and every imaginable space is filled by some kind of sound. Yet, surprisingly, it works. ‘Closed Captioned Radio’ manages to be both arty and modern, with an aggressive bite to counter the willfully dramatic sweep of the arrangements. Theirs is a Bowie-Eno kind of approach, right down to the William Burroughs-styled cut-and-paste approach to some of frontman Bill Campion's lyrics.
The band's real knack is blending elements common to most classic-rock songs—killer guitar hooks, snappy grooves, and catchy choruses—but to connect them in such a way that they still sound subversive. "Speedfreak Lullaby" deftly switches from polyrhythmic to martial beats under a winding guitar figure, while "Mexico" snakes a jazzy piano line through a reggae rhythm. "Mad Larry" alternates between cranking verses (reminiscent of the group's exuberant debut album), and a sing-songy chorus. Campion practically outlines this skewed, but captivating, approach in the anti-conformity rant "Highway of Shame" when he sings: "Right angles held captive by a square/ Takes four to tango/ And a steady hand."
The singer-guitarist's more straightforward lyrics, meanwhile, run towards the dark side, with frequent mentions of death; grim urban landscapes in the ominous "Failing Systems" and "Extended Family"; and a series of disturbing, semi-associated lines that dance through the aptly titled "Dark Waltz." But in "Sloth," Campion concedes that, "I don't claim to hold . . . the key to life"; in other words, he likes to look but doesn't attempt to resolve anything. A couple of songs towards the end of ‘Closed Captioned Radio’try too hard to mimic their predecessors' refreshing dynamic blend, but nothing in this full slab o' sound is anything less than engaging.
Gary Graff (courtesy of the Wall of Sound website)
Edgy, raw music wasted on the wrong label
The title track on Closed Captioned Radio refers to playing "songs for the deaf". Interesting, considering that this fine record basically fell on deaf ears upon its release in 1998. Instead of sticking with the infectiously exuberant sound that helped to get them signed by Arista three years earlier, The Bogmen decided to go out on a limb and create darker music that reflected their coming of age in the industry. Unfortunately, this was a move that prompted Arista to pull back their support of the release and, ultimately, drop the band from the label. While much of the effervescence of Life Begins At 40 Million is missing from Closed Captioned Radio, the stimulating lyrics and lush instrumental arrangements that The Bogmen were also known for still remains. Many of the songs may not grab you instantly, but when they do they'll get you good.
The record opens with "Failing Systems", a grungy rocker that immediately lets you know that this is not Life Begins...Part II. The second track, "Speedfreak Lullaby" is where the record really takes off and the band's new direction becomes more evident. It has such a fantastic sound, achieved by layering a blazing guitar over a great beat that goes beyond bass and drums. Percussionist, P.J. O'Connor, is the star of this track, banging on trash cans, scrap metal and anything else he can get his hands on. Billy Campion's lyrics are quirky as usual, as he sings of taking control of one's own life with lines like, "A magnetic quilt wipes out all your dreams/Change your charge and freak out the machines."
There are many of these harder-edged, somewhat dissonant songs, including the schizophrenic "Mad Larry", "Dark Waltz" and "Sloth". Fitting the mood, Campion delivers most of his vocals in lower-pitched growls rather than the sweetly strange vocal acrobatics he was famous for. It has been documented that Campion's voice was being affected by his excessive drinking at the time, which helps explain this change. However, that sweeter sound can still be heard on a few tracks, most notably the title song, "Highway of Shame", and "Extended Family". The latter, a song about poverty and urban life, is one of the highlights of CCR. In it, as The Bogmen have so often done, they take a somber subject and make it sound upbeat with pretty melodies and lovely, stirring vocals.
To find the most upbeat song on the record, look no further than "Mexico". It is probably as close to the old Bogmen sound as you'll find here. Just about everyone involved with the band and a vast majority of the fans believed that this song could have been a huge hit, and I happen to agree. A quirky love song, "Mexico" has it all - an irresistible beat to get your feet moving, a chorus that begs to be sung along to and a delicious trumpet solo, contributed by Mark Pender. The song is a blast of pure fun that's like a sweet treat hiding among the darker, more experimental songs.
One of those experimental songs that really blows me away is "Every Man is an Orphan". It has such a powerful sound that it would be virtually impossible to ignore. Sounding something like Jim Morrison fronting a band of African tribesmen and Vikings, Billy Campion sings, "Every man is an orphan missing our early history/Searching for roots in mystery/Out to look for that ground/Circle the wind and chase the wave/Follow it to the oldest grave". The rhythm section creates a throbbing pulse to accompany Campion's poetic words, which he delivers with intense honesty and passion.
Passionate is probably the one word that best describes Closed Captioned Radio. The Bogmen were not content to stay in familiar musical territory and decided to make music that they were passionate about, knowing that it might alienate some fans and displease their record label. It was a risk that ultimately derailed their career, but left behind music that new and old fans can enjoy and that the band can be proud of. Approach these songs as if they were "songs for the deaf". Don't just listen with your ears. Listen with your heart, and then you'll know that The Bogmen created this record from theirs.
4 stars out of 5
Becky B (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)