Like fellow Scots The Vaselines, whose Eugene Kelly was once a member and whose Francis McKee was in principal Bandit Duglas Stewart’s prior band, The Pretty Flowers, the BMX Bandits were once championed by Kurt Cobain. And while the Gigolo Aunts also covered their “Serious Drugs,” commercial success has largely alluded the band. Nonetheless, Stewart and company—and what a large company it has been, with close to two dozen people joining and leaving the ranks over the years—have persevered as an indie institution of sorts, releasing an album ever few years as the mood strikes them.
Though they weren’t actually on the original tape issued by NME, having issued both an album and a song titled after the cassette, the Bandits have certainly come to epitomize that aesthetic. As they’ve progressed, they’ve dropped some of the scrappy inclinations of their early years for a more Bacharachian approach to pop. BMX Bandits Forever (Elefant Records) is in such a vein, with Stewart veering between sentimental revelation and wry commentary over lilting pop tunes for most of the record. However, this approach really shines when Chloe Philip takes over the vocals on “Love Me ‘Till My Heart Stops,” her sweet coo accentuating the song’s mix of tenderness and bittersweetness. She shines similarly on “No Matter What You Say,” a majestic “stand by my man” love song that blends flute into the mix of guitar and keys. More surprising, at least in relation to what you’d expect on a BMX Bandits record, is “Razorblades & Honey.” Featuring Anton Newcombe, it sounds like a Brian Jonestown Massacre Song, only with Stewart on vocals. With such new wrinkles expanding upon the time-tested formula, Forever shows why the Bandits continue to be perennial favorites, and why there’s no reason that should ever change.