Derek Bishop’s début album was all kinds of funky with disco infused piano vibes and plenty of production really pushing catchy songs into a top draw realm. Returning with more of the same but amped up, “Bicycling In Quicksand” rips out all the ballads and replaces them with glittering disco balls.
The 70’s worship kicks off with “Backburning” where the funky guitars and piano stabs really kick out the jams. Bishop however has the knack of combining old warm 70’s fun with all the tricks of the modern-day and it’s that which sets him apart. The songs are catchy but it’s the repeated listening that allows you to discover new sounds, effects, phasers and quirks. The Abba’esque opener gives way to a similarly Nordic “Automatic” with chiptune computers and harpsichords battling over brass and bass lines. Add in an electric piano and the classic chord structure is one of those lighter swaying second to last at the disco tracks. It’s an anthem caught on a night out and it works extremely well.
“Shutting Down” continues down Derek’s need to throw in a good few minor chords in his tracks. His lyrics straddle the well used and the personal as you can feel there’s an underlying bitterness throughout each of his tracks. None make for happy reading but you wouldn’t always think that when you hear the track. “Number Ten” takes things back to the 80’s. The heavy synth work and massive production on the bass and drums make this the heaviest track on the album. There’s an element of a travelling circus to the album and this track has it to a tee. It also reminds me of early millennium game music – like a chocobo chase theme. I’d be very surprised if Derek wasn’t a gaming man as he borrows tropes from the game music genre perhaps without even knowing it. It’s possibly my favourite track on the album because it’s so full on and bombastic from start to end.
Channelling his inner Abba, the title track “Bicycling In Quicksand” is as close to his first album as this album gets. It’s piano beat driven and has a strong verse/chorus tempo and mood change. It also let’s Derek allow his vocals to not be drowned in the sound that surrounds him. Derek’s voice is quite nasally and so it’s easy to not let the vocal sit wholly centre in the mix. This track allows Bishop to have some space to breath in what is an extremely dense album. A dense wall of sound manages to fill out Derek’s voice throughout the album but on “Baggage” it also allows him to sing more freely and show off more of his vocal range as he cries “pack up your baggage from my brain – the only place where we remain”.
The excess of instruments continues into “Taffy” which mixes electric guitars, string booms, keyboards and lots of vocal layering effects. I labelled the last album kitchen sink pop but I can only think of Imogen Heap that throws this much into their album production. “Turn Around” channels Marc Almond and Eurovision as drama and chord stabs are the order of the day. It’s the lightest and cleanest track of the album and as a result has an extra layer of emotion. “Red Flags” follows down the dark disco path before “Toemashers” ends on a more broadway disco number. The rolling drums, the classic chord structure and the undeniable boogie beats will get you toe tapping and it’s a grande finale!
In some ways this second album is a sensory assault because so much is going on. The closing tracks calm down a bit on the mass production but there is always a wall of sound to dance to. I can see this having some real party pleasing over 2015 and beyond. Derek Bishop has created a fantastic hark back to the glitter ball days and the Abba moments of sadness and regret without ever feeling like he is stuck in a bubble there – and that is a great accomplishment.