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Hey Negrita - The Buzz Above

  by John Clarkson

published: 6 / 7 / 2006



Hey Negrita - The Buzz Above
Label: Select Label
Format: CD

intro

Melancholic, but powerful and rewarding second album from outstanding London-based Americana /blues outfit Hey Negrita


The London-based Americana /blues outfit Hey Negrita’s outstanding debut album from last year, ‘We are Catfish’, told of its singer-songwriter’s Felix Bechtolsheimer’s four and a half year battle against drug addiction, and his struggle to get clean. With such a rich backdrop of material-Bechtolsheimer’s descent into addiction ; the upper class junkie crowd the ex-Charterhouse pupil used to hang out with, many of whom are now dead, and his eventual recuperation at a detox clinic in Florida-it would have been easy for Hey Negrita to make drugs the theme of their second album, ‘The Buzz Above', as well. To their eternal credit, the group, which consisted for this recording of Bechtolsheimer (vocals, guitar) ; Hugo Heimann (piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, dobro) and Neil Findlay (drums)-they have recently enlisted a fourth recruit, multi-instrumentalist Gus Glen-have, however, avoided this trapping, and both emotionally and musically moved on. Heroin remains a shadowy background presence on ‘The Buzz Above’. One is conscious listening to it that Bechtolsheimer, when things had started to go wrong, would have blocked out everything in the past by sticking a needle into himself and often wishes that he still had the uncertain comfort of being able to do so. Of the twelve tracks on this second CD only the breezily melancholic ‘Charlene’, about Bechtolsheimer’s fellow junkie former girlfriend and a near death experience after he accidentally overdosed in a South London guest house, however, is a drugs song. The majority of the other songs tell of Bechtolsheimer’s on-off, failing relationship with a long-term girlfriend after he had escaped drugs and their torturous, final break-up towards the end of last year. “I believe that love is a curse/And I know that the truth is worse” he sings barbedly as a first line on the bittersweet ‘Coming Down’, his romance having just crashed apart for the last time. Images of drowning and asphyxiation and being lost at sea are dominant. "I am trying to get by without you in my corner/I am trying to get by without you in my head/Trying to get by is liking breathing underwater" he admits on the brittle 'All About Me'. "Under your spell is darker than the ocean" is another line from the same song. "I bleed for you/I swim through the rough/You can cover the rips/But it is never enough" he howls on the anthemic, just released latest single 'Abandon Ship'. Heimann's flurrying piano and keyboards, a major presence on 'We are Catfish', are still very much in evidence, but, while last time they had a rollicking sound, matching the devil-may-care, Russian Roulette lifestyle of Bechtolsheimer and his other junkie friends, this time they are more restrained and downbeat. Findlay meanwhile provides sturdy backing with his understated, but powerful drumming. In an album of fine moments, possibly the finest of all is ‘Good Times’. It finds Bechtolsheimer, exhausted by his heartbreak, returning to the singles scene, and features grinding guitars, gusts of lusty harmonica, and stabs of honky tone piano. As he chants the cliché of the chorus “Let the Good Times Roll” over and over, he, however, sounds weary, almost exasperated, and, as the tune fades away to powerful effect against the noise of a loud party, more lonely and alienated than ever. Hey Negrita are not , however, without humour. Their surreal videos, and their habit of crediting Walter, a plastic skeleton and a comically black reminder of Bechtolsheimer’s good fortune in surviving, as a member of the band, and bringing him onstage with him at each show, has proved that. Indeed ‘The Buzz Above’ for all its bleakness has moments of comedy too. The surprisingly jaunty ‘Nine to Five’ , which appears towards the end of the album, in particular is very funny, telling of a date from hell with a high power, fast living estate agent, who ends the evening by patronising and insulting Bechtolsheimer. Lastly there is the elegiac ‘Sunlight Hits Your Eyes’. By now Bechtolsheimer accepts the romance is finished. “God knows how I tried to be by your side” he croons resignedly in its final stanza, hurt but over it and prepared at last to move on again. ‘The Buzz Above’ finds Hey Negrita moving in a different direction on from ‘We are Catfish’, and coming up with something completely new. While its theme, although similarly autobiographical, is more conventional than its predecessor, telling the old age tale of a love affair that has gone wrong , its sound is more melancholic and less upbeat than ‘We are Catfish’. It is a less immediate or instantly accessible record, and something of a slow burner takies several listens before fully revealing its own rewards. This a very strong second album from one of the best Americana acts currently based in the UK. With the group now working on both their third album, a collection of acoustic reworkings of some of the songs on the first two albums, and their fourth album, an electric record of all new tracks, they seem a group with a durability that is destined to last.



Track Listing:-
1 Can't Walk Away
2 All About Me
3 Penny Drops
4 Abandon Ship
5 Coming Down
6 Good Times
7 Charlene
8 The Message
9 Hold Tight
10 Nine to Five
11 Lust and Bones
12 Sunlight Hits Your Eyes



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interviews


Interview (2008)
Hey Negrita - Interview
At a show in Glasgow, John Clarkson speaks to acclaimed country/blues outfit Hey Negrita about their third album 'You Can Kick', line-up changes and renewed sense of energy and creativity
Interview (2006)
Interview (2005)

live reviews


Oran Mor, Glasgow, 17/6/2008
Hey Negrita - Oran Mor, Glasgow, 17/6/2008
After a difficult year in which two of its principal members quit, John Clarkson at Oran Mor in Glasgow watches the new line-up of previously melancholic London-based blues/country rockers Hey Negrita play a blistering set fused with a new found spirit of optimism
Academy, Manchester, 28/10/2006


digital downloads




reviews


Burn the Whole Place Down (2009)
Energetic and fresh-sounding acoustic reworkings of old material on latest album from London-based country/blues outfit, Hey Negrita
You Can Kick (2008)
Rope (2008)
Nine To Five (2006)
Abandon Ship (2006)
Can't Walk Away (2006)
Old Britannia (2005)
Devil In My Shoes (2005)


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