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KingBathmat: Fantastic Freak Show Carnival

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."

Track Listing:
1) Ghost in the Fire
2) Fantastic Freak Show Carnival
3) Rejected
4) Kings Ransom
5) Hornets Nest
6) Sweet Iris
7) Simpleton Know It All
8) Illuminous Pups
9) Wonderful Life
10) Interval
11) Soul Searching Song

Added: May 25th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official KingBathmat Web Site
Hits: 13461
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

KingBathmat: Fantastic Freak Show Carnival
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-08-10 08:27:16
My Score:

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?

» Reader Comments:

KingBathmat: Fantastic Freak Show Carnival
Posted by Bond (Ukreviews writer) on 2005-07-08 04:42:50
My Score:

A Brilliant mindblower of an album, a special mention must go to the last track - SOUL SEARCHING SONG, it 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.

KingBathmat: Fantastic Freak Show Carnival
Posted by progmeister on 2005-06-04 14:43:31
My Score:

This album is brilliant, and from one of the most underated bands, nobody seems to have heard of them. Take the best parts of porcupine tree, black sabbath, pink floyd, with jellyfish style melodies, and you have some awesome sounds, one of the best records i have heard this year!

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