The best groups, one imagines - from The Beatles in Help to The Magic Band making Trout Mask Replica - live and create together in romantic squalor.
If that's so, chez Bronson, one imagines, would be either a bottle-and-paperback-strewn penthouse occupied by spreadeagled souls for whom every morning follows a particularly intense yesternight - somewhere you’d always awaken with your tongue tasting like a watch strap – or else a rudimentary shack in a gnarly shanty town with a murder of crows in the yard, a zinc hip-bath and a woodpile.
That’s what I’ve been picturing with the Outfit on the hi-fi, anyway. In fact, as it turns out, that wasn’t too far off the mark.
“We came back from a European tour and we had nothing to do, so started writing this album and we did it all in Dorian’s bedroom and we went a bit nuts,” says singer Sam Windett, from just north of a fulsome beard. “We went music crazy for a while. We’d get up, have a coffee and stumble straight into the room and start playing. We played for days and days and that turned into weeks and weeks.”
Pausing briefly for some sunlight, they decamped to the basement of an old farmhouse. After yet more jamming, writing and refining they had 50 mini-discs of music for consideration for their second album. Honing the songs down was an arduous process, but when it was done they flew to Nashville, Tennessee to record them with producer Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Kings Of Leon). And the result is a compact marvel of high-strung energy and kick-bollock ramshackling they’re, quite sensibly, calling “Derdang Derdang”.
There’s an intensity and urgency to Sam’s singing that might recall Pere Ubu for some, an angularity to the boys’ riffing which has echoes of The Monks in its unhinged thrust and bluesy roots. They’d steeped themselves in soul music and Scandinavian psych, Faust, Son House and The Gun Club, but the long gestation and careful editing means that, chiefly, The ABO on “Derdang Derdang” sound like themselves and that’s a) hard to do and b) a splendid thing now they’ve learnt how to lay back, get good and greasy and cut a groove like a demented termite.
Arp Cleveland: “We wanted a record that was still groovy but tough, and something that could draw you in without being just a ‘rock’ record. We talked a lot about dada and I tried to make the lyrics have a feeling of abandonment and three or four meanings. It was important to me to write about painful things in a childlike way. The simple stuff has often taken a complex route to get there.”
They still don’t make pop music, exactly, but the latest Outfit sound is more confident, exciting and approachable than ever. You can dance to it. Chat up members of the opposite sex to it. Eat jerk chicken to it. I’ve seen it done.
Before we forget, here’s some basic facts you may have missed: born in Kent and London, the ABO came together in Wiltshire, but have been based in South London for the whole of the millennium so far. Their first album was called “Fur”. Both albums feature secret fourth member Duke Garwood, who plays clarinet and rhaita (a Moroccan reed instrument) when the occasion demands.
This is strong, heartfelt music that believes in its power and wants to get busy under your skin. Let it come in.