Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Profile Review - Tim Rogers & The Bamboos

Published in the July / August issue of Rhythms

Tim Rogers & The Bamboos
The Rules Of Attraction
Warner Music Australia

Back in 2012, Melbourne soulsters The Bamboos released their fifth full-length album, Medicine Man. Contained amongst the album’s 11 tracks was a slow-burning little gem entitled ‘I Got Burned’, with guest vocals from one Tim Rogers.

As Bamboos leader Lance Ferguson told me recently, that track was penned at the last minute, and yet it became the most popular song on the album, Rogers’s falsetto croon – as far from his sweat-drenched rock ‘n’ roll growl as you’d think he could get – striking chords all over the place.

It seems then that such a collaboration was destined to happen again, and it has – not just a song though, The Rules Of Attraction, an entire record of Rogers and The Bamboos, and truth be told, it’s a cracker.

“On paper, The Bamboos plus Tim Rogers,” says Rogers himself, explaining what the album’s MO was. “If we did anything that, on paper, sounded like The Bamboos and Tim Rogers, then we got rid of it. Lets just try and do something else, something different.”

This is where all concerned have nailed it. Before I listened to the album, I indeed had a preconceived notion of what I was about to hear – to my mind, it’d be Rogers in full rock ‘n’ roll flight, with the odd dalliance into the higher vocal register, backed by the band’s trademark brand of sweaty funk ‘n’ soul. But it’s not. It’s not what you’d expect. It is, as Rogers, Ferguson and the rest of The Bamboos have strived for, something different.

For Tim Rogers can sing. We all know he’s got pipes, no doubt, but singing rock ‘n’ roll, and particularly the rock ‘n’ roll he’s been singing these decades past, is a fair stretch from soul music. And yet here’s skinny Tim Rogers, pulling off the high croons, the low rumbles, he’s sugar-sweet and twice as smooth. Back that up with what’s come to be known as Australia’s premier funk band putting their own unique spin on this old school music, and The Rules Of Attraction isn’t just Tim Rogers with The Bamboos, it’s a red hot little number that simmers and shakes with the best of them.

With the exception of lead single ‘Easy’, which to my mind is too polished for the rest of the album, the record is loaded with grit and punch. When a song calls for a driving funk groove, it’s there. When a song calls for a horn-led tsunami, it’s there. And on the flip side, the songs are lined with velvet, like all the best soul, the backing vocals slink and slide, things can get greasy in a matter of seconds, it’s a true throwback to the soul which made soul, and yet it manages to twist enough to keep it new and exciting.

“It was a real collaboration,” says Ferguson. “I didn’t want to come to [Tim] with any complete songs or anything like that. I wanted to give him some stuff and [for him] to write the lyrics for it. And later, after we went through that stage, we got together in a room and hammered the ideas out.”

Rogers mentions he was “absolutely, completely” intimidated about applying his voice to this music, particularly against The Bamboos’ usual vocalist, powerhouse Kylie Auldist, but as he then says, “What are you gonna do? If someone I admire says, ‘Let’s work together’, I’ve gotta take all that intimidation and all that anxiety… I’ve gotta stand next to Kylie and sing! I can’t match that, so all I’ve gotta do is accept that trust Lance and Kylie have put in me, and do something with it.”

While on the outside, particularly after the success of ‘I Got Burned’, people may think this album was an obvious move to make and it came together seamlessly, from the inside, at least from Rogers’s point of view, it would have been a gamble. And I agree. But it’s paid off – I’d certainly not have picked Tim Rogers as a more-than-decent soul singer, but here’s the proof that it’s a real thing. As he spells out in the album’s opening track, “S.U.C.C.E.S.S”, for that’s what this cut has written all over it.

Samuel J. Fell

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