Thursday, 13 October 2011

Friends Again Week part 3 - The Bathers

Whilst James Grant looked west to the US of A Chris Thomson went for a much more European feel. Unusual Places to Die, written in Rome, came out in 1987 on the newly formed Go discs (along with the Beautiful South and Trashcan Sinatras). A much more acoustic which would evolve into an almost orchestral sound backed Thomson's vocals that seemed to be the lovechild of Tom Waits and Van Morrison.

For some reason the lp wasn't really promoted by Go Discs and despite some great reviews didn't sell that well. It is one of those lost classics of the 80s

The Bathers were like Aztec Camera more a collection of musicians built around one singer songwriter than a band and among those who worked on the 2nd lp were James Locke from the Chimes (whatever happened to them?). and James Grant guesting on backing vocals. The music lost some of its pure pop and became almost chamber music. The vocals were now pure Scottish Tom Waits and the songs big dramatic European romances.

Sweet Deceit was released by Island records in 1990. The lp featured on track rerecorded from the the first lp this time with James Grant on backing vocals (as a result it is the most straight forward pop song on the lp and not really representative of the other tracks)

Hush a bye

The next 6 years saw the band release 3 lps on the German Marina label.

Lagoon Blues and Sunpowder built on the sound established in Sweet Deceit, mixing instrumentals , orchestral backing with more straight forward catchy songs but with lyrics that felt more akin to the romantic poets than pop songs. I've posted a couple of the more straightforward songs from these 2 lps

Gracefruit - the Bathers (from Lagoon Blues)

She's Gone Forever - The Bathers (from Sunpowder)

However it is with the final Marina lp that I think Thomson produced his classic. The Waitsian vocals were toned down a bit, the arrangements and song structures a bit more straight forward. It is an lp full of highlights including this gorgeous love song again with James Grant guesting on backing vocals

If Love Could Last Forever - the Bathers (from Kelvingrove Baby)

The band moved labels again this time to Wrasse records and with some comings and goings in personnel Thomson was joined by Callum Mcnair (who is credited on co writer on a number of tracks on the resulting lp) and Hazel Morrison. Pandemonia

"Pandemonia is the Bathers latest album. Pandemonia is a frank poetic interpretation of love with its heart felt highs and lows. On "pandemonia" Chris has utilized a number of guest musicians including contribution from Isobel and Richard from Belle and Sebastian Many of the songs have been written from personal experience and many revisit "the" relationship as it unfolds. Track "twenty two" is a sunny remembrance of a first sighting of a future love. "huntly in love" meditates on the perfection of love found and "sundown and longing" and the "fragments" dwell on love lost. The "Belle sisters" is all about three sisters with whom Chris has built up a friendship. "pandemonia" for some may personify a noirish femme fatale. For Chris "pandemonia" is one of his own demons which he failed to deal with and as a consequence caused great suffering and heartache in others whom he adored! "

Quite clearly record company promotional gubbins but it does somehow capture the over the top romanticism and heartbreak that the Bathers music is all about.

Trocadero Girls - The Bathers

An lp of tracks re recorded from earlier lps appeared Desire Regained. I've not heard this lp, and part of me put off by some negative reviews, is not sure what the point was.

In 2010 rumours of new material surfaced but nothing has been heard and there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon

Amazon has the lps to buy here however most of them are ridiculously over priced, so it may be better to hope one pops up on ebay - good luck it is a body of work that deserves much more credit and exposure

As far as visuals go first up is the usual mid 80s great song awful video and then 3 songs from an appearance on music programme The Beat Room


  1. I think the bathers could be one of my favourite bands , I always love to listen to .I do though prefer Chris Thompsons natural voice rather than the ' Tom Waits style.

    I love the title track of Kelvingrove baby , you have that kind of opera voice going on , quite something .I'm pretty sure i'm missing sunpowder
    and lagoon blues and as you posted they are a tad pricey , but I always keep a look out every now and again .

    Oh and i'm listening to ' Kites ' quite a bit worth a listen , a bit killers , a bit new order and a bit depeche mode and yet very orginal .

  2. cheers Jay I'll give them a listen - drop me a line with your address and I'll do you a cd

  3. thanks thats very nice of you , I'll do that

  4. It's worth giving Desire Regained a go. Sure some of the tracks don't measure up to the originals, but there are some that have really grown - in particular the version of Kelvingrove Baby is fantastically electrical.


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