It is so rare to find albums of music that work from the moment that you put them into the player until the final notes have you reaching for the replay button. But that is what Illicit Hugs and Playground Thugs by UK retro sensation, The Basement, does. The band, named The Basement as a nod to Dylan’s line in Subterranean Homesick Blues, “…Johnny’s in the Basement…” which should give you a clue about where the band is musically inclined, retrospectively, is one of the better ones to arrive at these shores.
The Basement showcases a real honest approach to a classic time of music when styles were mixed to produce hybrids that made us run out to select singles and buy LPs. There’s a little bit of country in those acoustic guitars, a little bit of early Rolling Stones, some Byrds, some Dylan, and more heavy influences that complete this album of songs. It’s refreshing to hear music that doesn’t follow the crowd of the last 2 years but chooses to become a standout by way of doing their own thing. With plenty of guitar, strong songwriting, an interesting voice, and an undercurrent of organ (can’t go wrong with those), The Basement’s Illicit Hugs and Playground Thugs is an album of depth and display that will go a long way.
Illicit Hugs and Playground Thugs is the kind of album that gets revisited 20 years later with a nice set of bonus tracks. And I sure that chief singer-songwriter, John Mullin, has plenty of unused songs, many as good as the songs on this excellent first start.
Previously released in July of 2006 in UK, this album has already spurred three singles including the popular, Dylanesque “Medicine Day.” It is amazing that it took this long for this overeas import to find an outlet in the US. But now that it’s here, I can recommend it wholeheartedly.
Memorable. Illicit Hugs and Playground Thugs is in my list of the year’s 20 best.