Last week was one of those relentless weeks where you’re so busy you have to sacrifice one of your meal times each day because there just isn’t time (if you know me well and my love of eating, this tells you just how busy a week it was). You find youself having to hold your bladder or clenching your bottom because there’s not time to queue in McDonalds toilet when nature calls during a day of activities in London. I even found myself changing my clothes in Claridges toilet inbetween Tueday’s events, and having one of those terrifying and sweat inducing ‘I’m trapped in my dress’ moments.
When an email arrived in my inbox inviting me to an intimate gig with Busted taking place at HMV Oxford Street on Thursday the sensible part of my brain was telling me to decline, knowing that I was already running myself in to the ground and heading for CFS body meltdown. But, as always the naughty/foolish part of brain spoke a bit louder and replied with a film ‘definitely, yes please.’
The allure of a night with Busted was just too strong, and I knew I’d get a serious case of FOMO if I decided to go home and rest – rest actually meaning catching up on blog posts with the chintzy drone of Gilmore Girls in the background. While we’re on the subject of GG what is it about that show that hooks us in. I only started watching it because I was sick of 80% of the bloggers I follow talking about it. It’s definitely not the sort of show I’d usually want to watch (I like dramas and documentaries), I’m pretty sure I find most of the main characters infuriating, self satisfied and extremely annoying. The comedy is so gentle it hurts, and some of acting questionable, but I bloody love watching it and have formed an addiction. What’s that about? I digress….
So yeah, I was always going to say yes to an invitation involving a Busted gig, because there’s something about their music that brings a smile to my face and an inclination to rock my hips from side to side. The allure is also heady mixture of nostalgia and the joy that getting immersed in it brings to you, but also a lifelong love for pop melodies and their ability to eleviate some stress.
Weirdly I was never a big Busted fan in the height of their fame (first time round). Don’t get wrong I enjoyed the music, would sing along happily and regularly, but I wasn’t noticeably nutty over them. I wasn’t having naughty dreams about any of the members, considering just how I could stalk any of them without being arrested, or spending the accumulation of my 50p a week pocket money on seeing them in concert. I think at that stage I was drowning in baggy denim and oversized hoodies, while fully in my alternative and nu-metal phase. Perhaps because we are the same age I didn”t really view them in that kind of way, I think I was past that crush stage in my life, where you get scarily obsessive about musicians and celebrities.
I actually ended up on a night out with Matt Willis during this era of there career. My friend Erin grew up in the same area as him, in fact I think she went to school with him, so we had some mutual friends. One night we ended up clubbing in Kingston’s Volts, which is now known as the Hippodrome. I don’t have many memroies of that night, mainly because I’m ancient now and it was ages ago, but also because it harks back my binge drinking days.
I think a large part of Busted success back then was due to the fact they bridged the gap between generic boy bands and rock music. Till then male pop groups were made albums monopolised by cheesy covers, or ballads that encouraged people to do those air grabs just to prove they were totally in that emotional moment. It was the era where they dressed the same, sat on stools, stood up during a key change, and rarely said anything that hadn’t been influenced or manipulated by media training.
Thanks to their first video, which saw them flirty and romancing their curvy and sexy teacher, there was an element of edge and cheekiness about them. The fact they played instruments and apeared to play a part in the construction of their songs also made them a coooler band to admit to liking than some of their pop contempories. The most undeniable factor of their success has to be their ability to make catchy songs though. The sort of songs that get in your head and set up home in there.
And what has been proved about the songs outings via their impressive run of tour dates as McBusted is that they make us feel just as happy now, as they did back then, and I don’t think it’s just down to nostalga’s ability to give something charm. These guys just know how to make quality pop songs, and they’ve proved again with their latest album, Nightdriver.
When myself and my friend Grant headed to the event space within HMV, it was clear we were a bit early because as we walked in we were greeted by the sound of the trio soundchecking, with only their team of PR’s, management and event organisers in attendance. They sounded great even though this wasn’t the proper polished performance, so I knew the awaiting fans queuing outside the store would be in for a real treat.
As the fans filtered through and found their prime spot within the intimate performance space, you could feel their excitement as they cleared spaces on their phone to enable them to capture some clips and snaps of the gig. Everytime they saw a human figure emerge from the door at the side of the stage there was an intense shriek, which would usually lead on to a slighty embarrassed guitar tech having to do his tweaking in the gaze of slightly disappointed expressions.
After a wait which was long enough to increase antiscipation, but also tire by ageing legs, the trio stepped out on stage. It was though nothing had changed. The boys were back, albeit with better outfits and dare I say it, even better, and age appropriate songs.
It was the day prior to their album release, so Matt did vocalise his confusion about what they would be autographing at the post gig signing. Despite the mystery, it was clear the room was united in excitment about it’s pending launch.
They started with their recent single ‘On What You’re on’ which immediately signals the band’s move into a more mature sound. There’s a funk to the track thanks to the combination of the bass and keys. The chorus sees Charlie to use the upper part of his range, forcing you to close your eyes and wrinkle your nose when you att attempt to join him in reaching those high notes, and join him in the groove.
James went on to introduce ‘Coming Home’, which Charlie and Matt reacted to with confusion. ‘No we’re not’ is what their faces said before their voices caught up. This moment lead to members of the crowd shouting ‘Love you James’ in an effort to make him feel better about his mishap. He was happy to shout it back to the fans, which I’m sure made their year. I always like it when things go wrong, or slightly off plan at gigs, they often lead to endearing or funny moments. I feel like you get to see a bit more of the genuine person too, as you see them try to overcome what’s happened and stifle any embarrassment they have felt. Sometimes tech hitches enhance a gig too – remember when Paramore lost sound at Reading main stage and Hayley ended up singing on the stage acoustically and it was utterly magical and felt like an interactive experience.
There’s some bands you want perfection and polish from, but from Busted I like to see them having fun together and being charming in their authentic and occasionally goofy way. I can relate to goofy, I can’t relate to perfection, and I’m sure many people feel the same.
After the brief confusion they were ready to perform one of their classic tracks, ‘Sleeping With The Light On’, which may be my personal favourite of their older material. It’s one of those songs that almost makes me wish I was a smoker just so I had a lighter to thrust in the air and way from side to side. Still a bonifide TUNNNNE.
As Charlie quite rightly reasoned it would make sense to finish their mini set with one of the songs from their new album. ‘Coming Home’ filled me with confidence that this new sound would extend Busted already impressively long life and see them have a successful new phase of their career as a 3 piece band. It uses the formula so successful in the first single of having a very catchy keys phrase following on from the main lyric of their chorus.
Once they left the stage, myself and a handful of bloggers who were invited down to the event were ushered into a room at the back of the event space. Grant and I didn’t know why, but we are well behaved people who always do as we’re told. We then saw a signing table and some album sleeves and realised we were about to have a very intimate meet and greet. PANIC!!
My whole life I’ve managed to avoid a meet and greet scenario. I know for some it’s a desirable situation to be in, being that up close and personal with someone you admire (or fancy), but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the notion that someone is being forced to meet me. I want anyone who talks to me and spend time with me to want to do it out of choice. I prefer meeting people organically I guess, or during an interview where we can have a proper chat. Most ‘celebrities’ I’ve met or become friends with over the years have been friends of friends, hung out in the same places as me, I’ve met them on holiday or got on well with themduring an interview. We’re not friends because of any fan/idol relationship, it’s based on a mutual appreciation of things and eachother.
I guess because I work in the industry the idea of putting myself in that ‘fan’ role made me feel a bit awkward. The last time I saw Charlie was in a social setting, and the time before that interviewing him as a solo artist. I actually met Charlie the first in 2010 because my boyfriend was supporting him on the Fightstar tour and I was interviewing Charlie for a Halloween feature for Bring The Noise. I just knew Si (my fella) would be absolutely mortified if he found out I was queing and posing for pictures with one of his contempories.
Grant looked just as horrified about the prospect. He’s been in bands for years and about to join a new one, so he wondered what the boys would think of him, being that he was the only bloke in the queue and had opted to wear a pink hoody for the occasion. Anyhoo, we didn’t want to appear impolite or ungrateful so just sucked it up, remembering that we were very lucky to be invited down to this small show, and that we could use our brief moment with the band to let them know that we’re digging their new sound. Let’s face it, a shot with Busted makes for solid Instagram post too.
I guess I was overthinking as per usual. The fact is I find all social situations worthy of a certain level of worry, but it’s mainly and generally due to the greeting process. The fact that a greeting was 50% of this particular scenario was probably a big part of why I was feeling anxious. When I do interviews I often get a hug or a kiss, but as a ‘fan’ would that be seen as inappropriate or like I was being over-friendly? Would Charlie even remember me or recognise me with my new hair?
In case your wondering, I went in for the hug, with all of them, but assumed they’d just think I’m one of their original fans from way back in the day. I told them I loved the basslines on the new tracks, talked about my t-shirt, then had a pictures taken. I felt my knee start to tremble, not because my mind was wurring with the realisation of ‘Oh my god I’m standing with Busted’ it was because I always get a bit nervy when people watch me having my picture taken. It’s almost as though I forget how to stand, smile or be a human.
They woudln’t have thought anything of it. They’re nice down to earth people, who do this sort of thing all the time, so I’ve since tried to bury the intense cringe I felt and forget about it. Next time I’ll be mentally prepared for the meet and greet and just enjoy it, afterall it’s meant to be a nice thing! Now it’s over I am pretty chuffed to have a nice signed album sleeve too.
Chances are the next band that graces HMV won’t be one that I have any history with anyways, so it will be perfectly fine. I think it’s probably helpful for me to flex my awkward muscle too, the more I use perhaps it will go against the usual rule and reduce in size and I’ll find these sorts of situations easier to bear.
Before I go let’s touch on the new album briefly, without reviewing it in full. To me it was inevitable that it would deliver a new ‘sound’. In the time since their last writing sessions they have been involved in numerous musical projects (James created a musical which my mate Andy Shaw was involved in, and as a prolific song writer for other people I believe). Matt produced solo material, and Charlie was in a band that played festivals and toured with various heavy bands, but also found critical acclaim via more gentle folky solo material. They will have experimented with new technology, style, instrumentation and will worked with different people who may have impacted their techniques, knowledge and direction. During this time they will have been listening to different music which will have also had a huge impact on their personal tastes and the music they want to create at this stage in their lives. They will have also gone through different life experiences (becoming parents for instance) which will inevitably contribute to the lyrical content, and the tone of the songs they want to put out. They will also be at a stage in their career where they will ensure they have full control over what they’re doing, therefore we’ll be hearing material that is more likely to be a genuine reflection of them at full blown adults. The suprise element for them will have arisen by the unpredictability of the amalgamation of all they’ve experienced, learned, and listened to in the space between their last album. No one could know what a jam session after all this time would produce.
It would have been very unlikely that they would produce songs that sound like their older efforts when you consider all those elements coming in to play. I also think it’s fitting that this new Busted chapter is landmarked by a new flavour.
What you do have is a collection of catchy and danced infused tracks that have a distinct 80’s vibe. As they are of a similar generation to me, I imagine they too have been enjoying shows like Stranger Things and enjoyed the music featured and cosy but cool nostalgic feels they deliver. You can see from the album artwork that they may have been inspired by films like Drive, which has the most awesome synth heavy score and soundtrack. My affection for many things from the 80’s has grown as I’ve gotten older – bands lik Duran Duran, all the obvious classic movies (Back to the Futue, Goonies, ET), as well as more recent ones set in the 80’s, like Donnie Darko, and I can completely imagine them having a similar fondness.
Without a game plan, but by listening to their own instinct and persuasion, they have managed to create an album that will appeal to the people that first knew Busted all those years ago…now they/we are all grown up. It is contempoary enough to feel current, with nods to past (and trendy) musicals eras to add some warmth (and groove), with tunes high enough in the sing-a-long factor to attract new fans.
In short, they’ve nailed it.
I also want to point out what a brave move it is. When you have had such great success, and created such great memories for so many people, it’s always a risk if you try to continue the story after a break. There must be worries about ruining the legacy, or damaging ones pride should it not work out. Even if it wasn’t as sonically successful, I’d have a huge amount of admiration for their guts.
Charlie has also had to put up with a lot of unfair comment over the years, I can only imagine some of the tweets he may have received when news came out he was going to be joining Busted again after gaining respect for being in Fighstar and finding success as a solo artist. He looked like he was genuinely happy up there, and having a great time with his old friends and making music they all appear to enjoy performing. They shared a life changing and intense experience together, being in that band as such a young age, I imagine there will always be a certain level of brotherhood between them. Humans change their minds all the time, we can’t always plan what’s going to happen or what we are going to do, and I admire his willingness to go with the flow and do what he feels right for in the here and now, despite what he may have expclaimed in the past. They have all said when they got together it felt right again, and they were on the right/same page musically, so why not give it a go – it would have been a waste to not use that new found creative chemistry.
On a side not I don’t begrudge anyone trying to make a living, and goodness knows this is likely to be financially rewarding, and what’s wrong with that – they’ve certainly put in the effort.
So, in short, welcome back Busted and congrats on this belter of an album. It will gift me with a welcome break from my routine of listening to rather heavy duty morose rock/metal records back to back.
Make sure you keep an eye on @hmvtweets so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to see some of your favourite music acts in this exclusive setting of the Oxford Street store.
Thanks for having me HMV, I can’t wait for the next one. Next time I’ll be mentally prepared for the meet and greet and hopefully not appear quite as horrified!
Photos taken by me on my LUMIX GM 1