Album Review: BNQT – Volume 1 by Nathan Brooks

Supergroups are interesting ideas, but they’re often short-lived. Frequently, the members are each the creative force behind their respective bands, inevitably resulting in clashes of egos. Fortunately, Eric Pulido of Midlake’s new indie supergroup BNQT, consisting of Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Fran Healy (Travis) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), have already lowered the bar by labelling themselves “the poor man’s Traveling Wilburys”. The thing is though, as shown in their debut release Volume 1, they’re not half bad.

Album Review: BNQT – Volume 1

What makes Volume 1 work is the effort put into avoiding ego clashing. Each member writes and sings on two songs each, allowing them to express their individual style, personality and talent. Even better, it doesn’t sound like a careless free for all. Instead, there’s an impressive balance between variety and coherency. This is likely thanks to the album’s consistent 1970s focus, which means the artists aren’t restricted to one sound but still have a general style to adhere to.

Pulido’s two tracks showcase impressive variety by themselves. Restart opens the album with a chugging glam rock tune whilst Real Love evokes The Beatles‘ George Harrison with its pretty melody backed by uplifting horns. Bridwell follows Restart with the Todd Rundgren-esque power pop track Unlikely Force, then thoroughly indulges in 70s soft rock on the penultimate (and weirdly foul-mouthed) track Tara. Meanwhile, Healy effortlessly blends baroque pop and soft rock on Mind of a Man, then strolls down the glam rock route with the breezy L.A On My Mind.

“…it’s nothing new, but it’s a surprisingly well-balanced record brimming with memorable melodies, unique personalities and the right amounts of fun and beauty.”

Kapranos and Lytle approach this album slightly differently from the rest. Kapranos’ first track Hey Banana is quirky and psychedelic, as he appears to express his love for a fruit amidst jangly guitar and the occasional Hammond organ. The closing track Fighting the World is also his, clearly evoking Jeff Lynne’s ELO as well as a smidge of Pink Floyd’s atmospheric space rock. Lytle brings his typically gorgeous and melodic songwriting to 100 Million Miles and Failing at Feeling, but keeps away from his usual synths and keyboards. Instead, he opts for elegantly cascading strings and strong John Lennon vibes, especially on the latter.

Of course, Volume 1 doesn’t exactly push music in any exciting new directions. As enjoyable as it is, its sound is firmly in the past. The likelihood is you’ve heard a lot of it done before and done better. Restart is even more familiar, sounding eerily like Tame Impala’s Elephant, which only came out five years ago. Still, everyone is clearly enjoying themselves and ultimately so am I. Sure it’s nothing new, but it’s a surprisingly well-balanced record brimming with memorable melodies, unique personalities and the right amounts of fun and beauty.