Bent – Intercept!

Laid back duo Bent‘s fourth and, to date, final studio album Intercept! came out a decade ago this week. As one of the most interesting and ingenious acts of their genre, that would seem to be a good excuse to give it a listen.

It begins with Exercise 7, completing a series of experimental instrumental pieces which go right back to some of their earliest releases. This one is a chirpy piece which begins with a sample asking “what would you do if you knew you only had three days to live?” and seems to take the choice of spending those last few days enjoying itself.

The one single from this album was the delightful To Be Loved, which builds gradually from a quirky introduction to a glorious chorus. It was never really going to make much of an impact on the charts, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

Bent have, or perhaps had, a talent for gentle but catchy pop songs, with a bit of an eccentric touch here and there – and Stay Out All Night is a fine example of this. The lyrics are strange, perhaps even a little silly, but the delivery consists of an adorable vocal performance and some very sweet synth work, so it’s difficult not to like.

The instrumental Breakfast at 80,000 ft comes next, and then Tired of the Show, a curious piece which sounds from its vocal as though it ought to be a hard rock track, but the backing is a mixture of Bent‘s traditional soft sounds with a few grimey synth additions. It’s a strange mix, but it works rather well.

After the short instrumental piece Wendy, Darling, we get a less remarkable piece Waiting for You, catchier but somehow a lot less special than some of its neighbours, and then the lovely choral interlude of As Seen from Space.

If Bent‘s traditional brilliance had been lacking at all on the tracks up to this point, The Handbrake is definitely every bit as good as anything else they ever released. It’s a great song, with just a hint of early 1980s synth and bass work in amongst the gentle strumming guitar.

It was probably inevitable that they would leave us on a high. Leavin’ Me is a beautiful piece, apparently sampling Canadian country singer Anne Murray and adding a whole load of soft synth sounds and chimes. This is every bit as good as anything from Programmed to Love.

Right at the end comes the lovely After All the Love, another country-styled song, which appears to be largely accompanied by frogs chirping. Any criticisms this album may have received seem very unfair when you listen to this. Fans at the time seem to have struggled with Intercept!, and I think I understand why, but it’s a good album – just maybe not the best place to start your journey with the mysterious and wonderful Bent.

You can still find Intercept! at all major retailers. Don’t bother reading the reviews.

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