This rollicking nine-piece London neo-ska nonsense ensemble is fronted by a cartoon-character vocalist dubbed Buster Bloodvessel (well, it’s a more colorful name than Doug Trendle), an immense bald hulk. The rest of the lineup — three horns, guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and harmonica (played, but of course, by Winston Bazoomies) — churns out smooth, tight bluebeat like early Madness or Specials, while embracing all manner of musical silliness for humorous effect. Bad Manners is strictly entertainment; their records, juvenile though they may sometimes be, consistently provide smile-inducing, good-natured, toe-tapping value in every groove.
Ska’n’B (the band’s original musical self-description) has fewer originals than subsequent LPs; versions of “Monster Mash,” “Scruffy Was a Huffy Chuffy Tug Boat,” the “Magnificent Seven” theme and “Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu” are ludicrous but engaging. Their first American escape, Bad Manners, draws tracks from Ska’n’B as well as Loonee Tunes!, released in the meantime. Gosh It’s… squeezes in a frisky instrumental rearrangement of “Can Can” amid pleasing originals like “Gherkin” (giddily described on the back cover as a “deeply moving tribute to Charles Aznavour”) and “Ben E. Wriggle,” plus some almost serious numbers that suggest insidious maturation.
Forging Ahead, the group’s finest record, has a (thankfully) instrumental version of “Exodus,” a cover of “My Boy (Girl) Lollipop” and an original called “Samson and Delilah (Biblical Version).” When released in the US two years later, a great subsequent single, “That’ll Do Nicely,” had been added.
Two compilations were issued in 1983. The American one has a truly disgusting pig-out cover and most of the band’s best early tracks; the British release offers a different selection, with only six songs in common. While the following year’s Can Can collection overlaps both, it’s not that similar to either. Of the three, Height offers the strongest program.
With Mental Notes, B.M. pulls away from their original concept, managing to cover Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day” without serious damage. Like Madness’ transitional period (which came a lot earlier, careerwise), the bluebeat tempos remain, but they’re under a slick coat of restraint, sophistication and — dare it be said? — maturity. Bring back giddy stupidity!
During the band’s lengthy studio lay-off, a 1987 “official bootleg” album appeared: poorly recorded but dynamic live performances of the band’s best originals and favorite covers. The CD adds two extra cuts.
Amid further compilations, Bad Manners managed to record the all-new Return of the Ugly, a serious fun album with traditional ska values and no stylistic mucking about. Covering two Laurel Aitken songs (now that’s bluebeat cred!), giving the Bonanza theme a rock steady twist and contributing a bunch of generic originals, Bad Manners put their digressions aside and party like it’s 1979. Skank on!