BAS JAN - 'Back To The Swamp'

Published on 31 January 2024 at 10:53

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


We haven’t reached the end of the first month of the new year. 

At the time of writing the year is 27 days old. 

I met someone yesterday who wished me a happy new year. 

And yet we may already have a contender for album of the year. 


If you are the sort of person who didn’t understand why some of us were left bereft by the passing  of music writer Neil Kulkarni - the sort of person who thought that his championing of black artists  was an obstacle to another article on the drummer from Kula fucking Shaker’s trousers, and not  as an opportunity to have your eyes opened - then “Back to the Swamp” is, sadly, not for you. 


The existence of a band like Bas Jan will enrage them - four women, not a single reference to The  Beatles, no c-c-c-c-c-cocaine driven “bangers” (God I hate that word). This is the future sounds  of England, not a tribute to anything that has gone before. 


Ironically the people who will be most perplexed by Bas Jan are the same people who will be  whooping and yelping as the band’s bassist and sax player, Emma Smith, plays live with Pulp. Ha  ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  


There is certainly a synchronicity between Bas Jan and Pulp - both are curiously, peculiarly,  English, and both absolutely reject what that label means to a certain type of bloke. 


In the England of Bas Jan it is not Margaret Thatcher who is worthy of being celebrated, but  Margaret Calvert - the designer responsible for the design of British road signs. Who can’t get on  board with that? I’ll tell you who - the risible bores/boors who find the Turner Prize confusing.  “Margaret Calvert Drives Out” is one of the highlights of the album - and one of the tracks of my  year…just you wait and see at year’s end. 


That’s what I want from the bands I love - songs about Margaret Calvert. 


Some people want the bloke from Oasis growling about pots of gold and rainbows while the other  bloke from The Stone Roses plays another riff that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Led  Zeppelin b-side. 


Knock yourself out “mate”. 



I’ll take something glorious like “At the Counter” where strings, thumping bass, and synths deliver  a murky, yet uplifting, backdrop to lines like “I’m at the pet shop, I’m at the car, I’m running around  and around, I’m living my best life…”. The magic of the mundane elevated to high art by knowing,  sweetly bonkers, artists. 


“Back to the Swamp” is the album of the month…which puts it firmly in the running for album of  the year. You don’t believe me…yet.


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