The songwriting, instrumentation, arrangements and vocal gymnastics are all classically Family and the recording methods employed are of the highest standards. In other words Bandstand is another terrific Family album in a long tradition of terrific Family albums.
Side one explores many different genres with mixed results. “Burlesque” opens with the same drunken, reeling feeling that made “Sat’d’y Barfly” such a smash on Fearless . Its inebriated guitar and bass riffs soar along in ever-colliding tandem. Roger Chapman’s heroic tipster rolls and tumbles, drinks and sinks into merry, hedonistic oblivion. “Bolero Babe” proves Chapman a very tender and thoughtful lyricist despite his violent mannerisms and it spaces us out and into “Coronation” which despite its early promise never quite makes it. Poli Palmer’s “Dark Eyes” is too short to establish itself very successfully but it is pleasant enough. “Broken Nose” which closes the side could have opened things up, presenting the perfect, frenetic Chapman, swirling past everything in a spastic ricochet. The song always threatens to get madder and madder, more and more intense. It tests our limits and rewards us generously for our efforts.
Side two is consistently brilliant, proving the band’s insane intent. It opens with “My Friend the Sun”, sunshine bright with an acoustical guitar and concertina to play against Chapman’s ethereal vocal. A country fiddle honks it up and up, just in time for the angelic Beach Boy choir to make their token appearance. “Glove” uses Chapman’s voice as a tortured, bluesy instrument, both witty and supple, to mirror the young man’s stormy emotional state in this simple story of a predatory man-woman relationship. “Ready to Go” puts into an electric, rock band context some very Lennonish lyrics that rail against the injustice of it all and “Top of the Hill”‘s ominous vibes and walrusy strings accent the hearbeat intensity of the whole.
The album, like the group, is exciting, humorous, very musical. Challenging too. There is an inherent violence within the music that reflects a working class frustration finally being given free rein, but rather than obscuring the work in political or sociological diatribes, the group channels all this raw fury into their sound. This lp is not for the faint of heart or the hard of hearing, but its catharsis is completely within the music itself, scornfully avoiding the ever-popular dime store theatrics of the latest hot flashes.
Family has been one of the most popular and respected bands in England for years. They are on the verge of ripping it up in America and their recent tour with Elton John must have turned thousands into new fans. On stage Family is in a class by itself and in Bandstand they give this live sound its due. Yet I can’t help thinking that if you want to hear recent Family you should really get Fearless . After you feel you have gotten into what is happening there then try Bandstand . You’ve got to let Family into your home.