Seven long years have passed since we last had a LP from the Bevis Frond. (Well, unless you count the recent Debbie Duveen record – her backup band the Millbanks is, in fact, the Frond. Plus Debbie is the daughter of Frond leader Nick Saloman, who wrote the songs. But I digress.) The Leaving of London makes clear what empty, empty years those were. With seven years to recharge his creative battery and refine his musical instincts, Saloman, along with stalwart bassist Adrian Shaw, guitarist Paul Simmons and new drummer Dave Pearce, lovingly creates one of his finest albums here.
Few modern musicians combine their roles as tunesmith and axeslinger as well as Saloman does – it’s hard to decide whether to sit and marvel at his melodic facility or jump around the room playing air guitar. The blend of rocking riffs, intelligent lyrics and enticing melodies in “Reanimation,” “Barely Anthropoid’ and “More to This Than That” demonstrates his utter mastery of the art of creating rock music. Another major part of Saloman’s genius is his ability to wax tender without becoming sappy – check the acoustic “Testament,” the poppy “Preservation Hill” and the raging “Why Have You Been Fighting Me?” for compassionate sentiments expressed with grace instead of bathos. On a record packed with some of the shiniest gems in the Frond jewelry case (‘Too Kind,” “Johnny Kwango,” the title tune, everything cited so far), Saloman still manages to save the best for last, ending with “True North,” an unadorned, unsentimental song about being true to one’s own soul.
Having long ago internalized the 60s psychedelic influences that inspired him to make music, Saloman has no need to hew to a specific genre – The Leaving of London is simply a timeless, melodic rock record that stands not only as a highlight in an already remarkable catalog, but as a new signpost for likeminded artists everywhere.