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KingBathmat - Fantastic Freak Show Carnival CD (album) cover

FANTASTIC FREAK SHOW CARNIVAL

KingBathmat

Psychedelic/Space Rock


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Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Who is KINGBATHMAT? What kind of name is that for a band any way? Well, it is different, unique and original. Ok we are already a step ahead of most acts. You have a name that you cannot forget, now who is the man behind the music? His name is John Bassett and he is from the UK. The CD cover is just as colorful as the name-weird and bizarre or any other vernacular that fits out the ordinary. The title of the album is "Fantastic Freak Show Carnival", are you starting to catch on now?

Now to the music.it is nothing short of fantastic, easily one of the best rock albums I have heard this year, and believe me I hear a lot. To explain what this music sounds like could be a challenge, I heard so much in every song. Its all good, I absolutely loved every track. I would have to say PINK FLOYD is definitely an influence and certainly "Sgt. Pepper" era BEATLES, after that I am sure whomever hears this CD will say something different, and that is a tribute to the across the board appeal this CD will enjoy. For a rock album that is a monumental achievement as the genre can most certainly lend itself to a generic sound. This album is far from that. Bassett handles the entire gamut of musical instruments-guitar, bass, vocals, drums, keyboards, and the artwork for the project. He is a literal one-man band.

This is unequivocally progressive rock mixed with psychedelic and flat out rock jamming. The guitar playing is exceptional throughout this recording with a special note to the closer "Soul Searching Song" which runs over 11 minutes. The tour de force takes the entire album, ties it all together conceptually and musically, and then closes the curtain on one dynamite album that is hard to forget. . Where has this guy been all of these years anyway? Where have you been hiding him England?

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck-http://www.muzikreviews.com

May 2, 2005

Rating - 9.5/10

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#35005)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
sally.webb@gm
5 stars The musical progress that British singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Bassett - AKA KingBathmat - has made in three albums boggles the mind. His 2003 debut, Son of a Nun, blended psychedelic pop, rock and folk into a captivating amalgam of eclectic sounds, and the following year's Crowning Glory deftly blended pop and prog. Both albums were do-it-yourself discs, with Bassett playing all of the instruments. But on Fantastic Freak Show Carnival, he hired a guitarist and a drummer to accompany him on bass and vocals, and the result is a fantastic, listen-to-it-over-and-over record from a powered-up indie-rock trio that, in a more perfect world, would be deserving of mainstream coverage in such mags as Rolling Stone, Paste and even Spin - and certainly Britain's own Classic Rock and Mojo.

Given Bassett's nasally voice, the album's lush arrangements and its diversity of material, Fantastic Freak Show Carnival at times recalls a simpler version of Brian Wilson's decades-delayed, recently released SMiLE. The album is a song cycle revolving around a cast of characters living in a small country town littered with drunks, drug addicts and mentally ill people. With that as a backdrop, it's surprising how much appeal this album packs. Bittersweet verses, a monster chorus and Beach Boys-style harmonies propel "Rejected," while the title track manages to incorporate both Beatles and Black Sabbath references. Bassett engages in drum-driven a cappella acrobatics on "Wonderful Life" and segues from mopey British pop to Who-like classic rock on the instrumental "Illuminous Pups." "Sweet Iris" sways in a breeze of acoustic guitar, and "Ghost in the Fire" could be a single on modern-rock radio in the United States. Plus, Brain Wilson himself would be proud of the experimentation on "Interval" (essentially another vocal exercise, albeit brief) and the closing epic "Soul Searching Song" (which clocks in at nearly 11 and a half minutes). The production, it's worth noting, is stellar - especially for an independent release.

All three KingBathmat albums are worth exploring, but if you want to start with the best of the bunch, you gotta pay a visit to this "Carnival."

Michael Popke

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Posted Thursday, June 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
themagicnumbe
5 stars King Bathmat, whose ultra-cool, eclectic sophmore "Crowning Glory" caught my attention a year ago has now, in June 2005 released his third album "Fantastic Freak Show Carnival". King Bathmat are a most interesting pastiche of many diverse influences in styles, a more psych driven Sondre Lerche, strong Andy Partridge walks through acid-drenched forests, some reflective Doves, some progressive Marillion(but early 70`s folk-prog bands,too) and strong heavy/light subtle similarities to Porcupine Tree. There`s a strong, clear progressive- rock spirit that sifts in and out of focus on much of the material. Unlike so many of the modern -day prog-rock bands, King Bathmat are writing songs, not jams, melodies, not loose-ideas based around riff-progressions. It`s this adventurous spirit that separates the band`s work inside the framework of progressive rock. Fantastic Freak show Carnival is a concept album. The concept turns around a city, which is populated by all kinds of ill and drug-dependent types. No constant history is told, but stories of different characters are joined to form a kind puzzle. The song Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is really nifty, darting through movements yet sounding so coherently part of something bigger that you begin wondering if you're listening to some long forgotten rock opera by The Who - Tommy 2: Tommy Reloaded. Equally appealing is Ghost In The Fire which demonstrates a turn of phrase that is massively charming in a bitter, yet strangely polite way, and ends up catching a wave of absurd pop perfection, similar to a more gutsy lightbulb sun by Porcupine Tree. In "Fantastic Freak Show Carnival", King Bathmat has created an (almost) perfect form of escapism. It's a chance to journey into another universe, one that has a distinctly more psychedelic-tinge, and most importantly is brilliant fun. In fact, it's all the fun of the fair.

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Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
saltymavis2@h
4 stars To think that this album represents the work of just one man, is something of a mindblower. Ranging from lush orchestral pop to free roaming prog excess, Fantastic Freak Show Carnival sounds at times like an insane mash up between the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin and The Verve while at other times like Mercury Rev jamming with Spiritualized. The opening salvo, GHOST IN THE FIRE, manages to mix skeletal guitar lines to ghost train style chanting in a song that sounds like Richard Ashcroft scoring an episode of Scooby Doo, while the title track FANTASTIC FREAK SHOW CARNIVAL is the sound of Liam Gallagher fronting Queen, while Rush offer some prog rocking advice in the background. After the bombastic opening, REJECTED eases into something of an introspective mood recalling Led Zeppelin at their most pastoral and gentile - although with controlled explosions into the big choruses, this is a mood that definitely has its swings. KINGS RANSOM, sees John Bassett continuing the anthemic prog rock offensive, this time melding The Beatles to Queens Of The Stone Age - a trick only slightly let down by some less than inspiring lyrical content and forced sounding vocals at times, while SWEET IRIS, is a dreamy Brian Wilson-esque slice of exquisite pop that is nothing less than sublime. Representing something of a misfire, SIMPLETON KNOW IT ALL, echoes those mediocre US college rock bands that seem to clog up teen-angst movie soundtracks like Sixpence None The Richer and The Wallflowers, all polish and pristine melodies, no feeling or soul. The epic album closer, SOUL SEARCHING SONG, weighs in at the impressive eleven minute mark and fortunately has the ideas and imagination to go the distance. Grooving between staccato prog rock guitar riffs, dreamy ambience and forays into avant garde instrumentalism via hard rock, this is a song that sounds like a million ideas thrown into one, blended together, spat out and then spiked with mind altering drugs - like The Beatles reinterpreted by Pink Floyd and remixed by The Orb. An impressively diverse and fascinating piece of work, Fantastic Freak Show Carnival is a record that is never anything less than interesting. Yes, it does occasionally lapse into weaker territory and the influences can be a little overpowering at times, but nevertheless this is an album that constantly surprises and pleasantly wrong foots you. At times more experimental and diverse than it is coherent and consistent, Fantastic Freak Show Carnival, is a fascinating peek into the world King Bathmat inhabit and as such represents something of a sublime curiosity. If you like the sound of Pink Floyd wrestling with Kasabian, then King Bathmat will rock your world - and the fact that this is the work of one man working on his own is a fact that can only let you dare dream where this sound can go in the future.

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Posted Friday, July 08, 2005 | Review Permalink
collectivesou
4 stars Roll up and join the queue / To the Fantastic Freak Show Carnival," beckons John Bassett on the title track to his latest release as KingBathmat. Perhaps Bassett wishes his summons could be an invitation to escapism like the Beatles song to which it alludes, but the claustrophobic, deteriorating environment of his music isn't easy to run from. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival's psych-arena rock -- big, blunt Bends-ian chords cuddled by extravagant ELO harmonies -- feels haunted from the inside out. Bassett (who performs all instrument duties on the record) has a flair for wicked hooks, which rear their infectious heads periodically: the electrifying "Ghost in the Fire", the ballad "Sweet Iris", and "King's Ransom", which contorts like prog and thrills like power pop. While KingBathmat's music is beautifully moody, it also tends to be overly indulgent at times: The 11-minute closing track "Soul Searching Song" comes off like King's X tackling 2112. Simply put, Bassett's better left to the shorter, poppier stuff. Like all freak shows, this one's got some fantastic stuff if you can get past some of the squeamishly decadent.

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Posted Saturday, September 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
granladdy@hot
4 stars "Roll up and join the queue / To the Fantastic Freak Show Carnival," beckons John Bassett on the title track to his latest release as KingBathmat. Perhaps Bassett wishes his summons could be an invitation to escapism like the Beatles song to which it alludes, but the claustrophobic, deteriorating environment of his music isn't easy to run from. Fantastic Freak Show Carnival's psych-arena rock -- big, blunt Bends-ian chords cuddled by extravagant ELO harmonies -- feels haunted from the inside out. Bassett (who performs all instrument duties on the record) has a flair for wicked hooks, which rear their infectious heads periodically: the electrifying "Ghost in the Fire", the ballad "Sweet Iris", and "King's Ransom", which contorts like prog and thrills like power pop. While KingBathmat's music is beautifully moody, it also tends to be overly indulgent at times: The 11-minute closing track "Soul Searching Song" comes off like King's X tackling 2112. Like all freak shows, this one's got some fantastic stuff if you can get past some of the squeamishly decadent.

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Posted Friday, September 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
consolesandga
5 stars An excellent album that grows and develops with every listen, "Fantastic Freak Show Carnival" is a remarkably diverse affair. The record plays like a rock opera and joyously combines War of the Worlds-era Jeff Lynne with The Who, circa Tommy. The title track begins to contort towards a more Sabbath/Soundgarden axis before being dragged back into the more melodic by the Brian Wilson infused 'Rejected'.

The problem with KingBathmat is that they are hard to categorise, from the opening haunting rock of "Ghost in the Fire" through to the Steve Hackett/Steven Wilson esque backing harmonies and melody of Sweet Iris, there seems to be a difficulty in determining where KingBathmat stand in the musical arena, they become Progessive Rock on the last 11 minute track "Soul Searching Song", while easily slip into alternative modern rock on "King's Ransom", the former mentioned "Soul Searching Song" is an absolute stunner from begining to end, it evokes early porcupine tree at there most experimental but with the punch of a quality modern production.

Did I mention the sound quality? the production is of the highest standards, multilayered backing harmonies have a glorious warm surround sound to them (sweet iris, ghosts in the fire), and then at the other end of the scale you have layered sledgehammer guitars wielding fearsome riffs. Overall a one of a kind album that defies categorization.

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Posted Friday, September 30, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Kingbathmat is a surprise.. sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it... Why? Simply, the album does not fit any known category at all. The progressive moments are really different, sometimes strange, magic, but then we have some annoying 'Neo Pop Rock' like passages mixed with some good ones. I have to say almost half to half. If the 50% excellent was distributed to fill the album, 'Fantastic Freak...' could receive five stars, but these pop moments are there. Another surprise.. each time I listen to this album I like it more or like it less. This is unique for my ears, an album I can not review as good or as annoying, but this is also a nice characteristic of 'Fantastic Freak...' So, if you like surprises and can handle some seconds of bad pop rock, you will like 'Fantastic Freak...' a lot. Three stars for me is enough...

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Send comments to Grobsch (BETA) | Report this review (#161835)
Posted Friday, February 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If Radiohead were fun

I have a confession to make that will lower my credentials even more than they already are. I really don't like Radiohead very much post-Bends. Are they good, sure, are they important, fine. But I'll do almost anything to keep from playing their discs. Need your lawn mowed? I'm there. Anyway, when I'm looking for a great indie alternative rock band in the Radiohead/crossover realm, but actually want to have some fun at the same time with musicians who don't come off as self-important, I can reach for Kingbathmat's "Fantastic Freak Show Carnival." Released in 2005 the album sports an alternative rock/melodic pop backbone with hints of psychedelia, experimentation, and imagination. Think of a cross between "The Who Sells Out" and a John Frusciante album and you might have an idea what the Freak Show feels like.

Given that this is a one-man album it is very impressive how Bassett manages such a full and rich sound, sounding more like a full band with dual guitars. Punchy melodic pop and harder rock numbers occasionally escalate into longer jams, but for the most part the songwriting is succinct with great instincts. The secret weapon is Bassett's amazing self-harmonizing on his vocals...he has a voice very much like Frusciante but is capable of doubling over himself to create lush and lovely vocal presentations. "Sweet Iris" was my favorite for this reason, just glorious hazy psych-pop, mostly vocal, with light guitar for color. Mixed with his whimsical and perhaps slightly Syd Barrett nods, along with superb and tasteful guitar leads, the result is a very satisfying modern rock album. The final track finds him stretching out to 12 minutes and getting wilder, almost Kingston Wall territory. This excellent under-the-radar release eluded me for too long. Check it out, along with his new album "Truth Button."

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#897724)
Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | Review Permalink

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