Here donning his Alvarius B. persona, Alan Bishop returns with a trilogy of albums, all recorded from 2014-2017 in Egypt with various members of Cairo's Invisible Hands and the Master Musicians Of Bukakke.
Alan, his brother Richard Bishop and Charlie Goucher were the legendary Sun City Girls - the outsider free-noise / ethno-punk outfit that deliberately confused the unenlightened and frustrated their die-hard fans. In any given set of recordings, glorious melodies and teasingly brilliant psychedelic hooks would erupt with a thousand ideas culled from the world's songbook: Morricone's serpentine drama, John Leyton's murder ballad / pop glory, Trịnh Cong Son's torrid simplicity and Omar Korhseid's non-occidental rock'n'roll passion. Yet at the same time, the Sun City Girls thrived on undermining any given perception as avant-rock geniuses with their impish humor that angrily jabbed with a misanthropic bile. Those who love the Sun City Girls may have come to an understanding to disagree with the politics of these jokes, but there's a recognition that the Girls needed to shove back at polite lefty-liberal society.
Charlie Gocher died in 2007, and the Bishop brothers dissolved the Sun City Girls in honor of their partner. Many of the ideas continue unabated in the Bishop brothers' solo careers. Alan Bishop, especially as Alvarius B., comes the closest to manifesting the panoply of horror and glee found in the Sun City Girls, leading us here to these three volumes of With A Beaker On The Burner And An Otter In The Oven, which are filled suitably filled with a trove of horror and glee.
Across the three albums, Bishop crafts effortless reconstructions of a century's worth of folk-rock-blues idioms through his slack acoustic-guitar splutter. His songs alternate between the sensible and the snarling in varying ratios across the trilogy. It may be true that the first volume is the most "melodic, savvy" of the three as Bishop quipped in his thorny press releases, but his bitter melodic croon persists throughout the trilogy. It may be true that Alan believes the second volume to be his favorite. It may also be true that the final album may be the most problematic of the lot, but when is an Alan Bishop project not problematic? Art should never be easy.