…that bust(er) over on the right—a jivin’ conquistador pop-music poet schmo. Born in the year of Astral Weeks, The Beatles, Beggars Banquet, Electric Ladyland and John Wesley Harding (though likely conceived to the strains of the James Last Orchestra) Alan has aged into the quintessential armchair critic, free-stylin’ song-by-song commentaries of albums by bands/musicians he likes. This improvisation is done at something like 30 words a minute during real-time listening. When finished, he edits his raw material to remove typos and improve flow. Apart from one or two exceptions, he only writes about music released on vinyl.
Are these reviews? No, not really. An album takes you on a journey. These commentaries are records of Alan’s journeys through albums as he experiences them in real-time. There’s little deep analysis here. Indeed, there’s factual inaccuracy, naìve opinions and repetitive rambling. “Doesn’t matter,” says Alan — “it’s the idea of immediate response to the music that’s important—an aural Rorschach test.” Thus we might think of Alan as a Derridean distractionist, an indefinite deferrer of meaning and sense. Think of his write-ups as ‘textual cover versions.’
One thing about Alan’s commentaries I’ve noticed: consider the ‘high-rise syndrome’ – the name given to the phenomenon of cats falling from high-rise buildings. This syndrome suggests that cats falling from seven storeys or greater suffer less injuries than those falling from under seven storeys. The reason is given thus: When falling from higher than six storeys, cats have time to turn themselves over, spread their limbs and relax, thus allowing them to ‘parachute’ to safety. A similar principle applies to Bumstead commentaries. An album like Disintegration by the Cure with an average song length of 5+ minutes is going to have a far more informative song-by-song review than an album of three minute pop songs. There’s a point around the 3 minute mark where he’s had just enough time to think about the song and about what he wants to say that he can get a whole lot more specific detail in there, provided the song continues for another 1 or 2 minutes. But for a 3 minute song, the opposite is true. The song is over before he’s had time to form much of an opinion and what you’ll find with albums of shorter songs, is that his commentaries, uh, splatter, you know, like panicked cats. Enjoy.