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Flamingo Love Parade

Flamingo Love Parade

The last time Flamingo Love Parade were mentioned in these hallowed pages, it didn’t go well. It wasn’t so much a slating as a merciless fourparagraph annihilation. The reviewer even begrudged their right to an association with that most glorious of birds. I won’t deny that FLP are certainly too crazy to be everyone’s cup of tea, and the aforementioned reviewer is of course entitled to his opinion, but I do wish to redress one thing. He accused them repeatedly of being dull. Flamingo Love Parade are many things – extravagant, camp, anarchic, provocative, divisive – but never, ever dull.

FLP took it on the chin. The opening track of their eponymous debut shares its title with the “jazz style lift music” that they found themselves accused of, though it’s not an entirely accurate description. They do have a classic jazz four-piece line up – guitar, bass, sax and drums – but their sound takes strong cues from Zappa and Beefheart, blended with plenty of prog, alongside a splash of lounge, and their open-ended tracks lead off in a variety of unpredictable and exciting directions.

At one of their famously flamboyant live performances, you’ll find them – impressively, considering they’ll have biked there, lugging amps and drums behind them – dressing up and flinging themselves around the stage like madmen. It’s quite a visual experience, but I did wonder whether without this spectacle the music could survive the transition. Happily it did, and this record exhibits their abundant variety of harmonies and rhythms, the irregularity of their riffs, and the capriciousness of their structures and dynamics to excellent effect. Little surprises like the brilliant afrobeat guitar riff in ‘JJ Goes to Kenya’ and James Pannell’s brilliant 8-bar rap in a reworked ‘The Arrival of Gaston’ keep up the kitsch appeal.

Surprisingly too, despite these wide-ranging extrovert tendencies, the album works very well as a whole. There are many thematic threads that run through the album, as well as absolutely seamless transitions from one track to the next. This unexpected coherence, along with the very high skill level of the musicians involved, is what helps elevate this project from a silly student joke to an undertaking of real substance and virtue.