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KingBathmat - Fantastic Freak Show Carnival CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

4.17 | 43 ratings

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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

| 5/5 |


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