Black Bambi were a band born just a little too late. They started to make waves on the LA club scene just as the seismic shift away from good time hair metal fun and frolics were starting to be frowned upon, to be replaced by the dour heroin-fuelled misery of grunge. The band weren’t unaware of this – in their promo shots cowboy boots have been sensibly replaced by more sensible and de jour Doc Martins, for instance – but they were just unable to change their musical instincts to accommodate the music industry’s whims and hence disappeared without trace.
They signed to Atlantic Records, got dropped before even releasing the album they recorded with Ratt/Winger knob twiddler Beau Hill, and disintegrated without registering even a ripple on the global consciousness. But now they are back – due to overwhelming public demand, natch – and ready to unleash that lost debut on an unsuspecting world.
And it really isn’t bad at all. If you enjoyed the recent reappearance from Vain, there’s nothing on Black Bambi that won’t appeal to you. Songs like Seven Miles have a languorous appeal, mixing the cod-Zeppelin bombast so beloved of late-eighties US metal operatives with a hazy, wilfully dopey lyrical approach that wants to be Jim Morrison but settles for Ian Astbury.
The track Shadows is probably Black Bambi in microcosm. Lyrics that would pass the lips of the Cult frontman without a problem but would turn back at the tongue of anyone else, sadly convinced of their own ridiculousness, married to a (for the time) pleasingly Vince Neilesque delivery and wrapped in a big-bollocked, airy production guaranteed to sound good on a Sunset Strip dancefloor at two in the morning. This is in no way a criticism, you understand – there’s a fair chance your reviewer would have loved this album when it was meant to come out in 1990 – but, viewed through the filter of nearly thirty years experience you can see why the band just failed to get the job done when they seemingly had the whole thing in the bag. It’s trying too hard to tick all the boxes.
That said, however, Black Bambi is never less than entertaining, with songs like me Lay Me Down and Blackbird really sounding like lost hair metal classics, and it’s nice to get the chance to hear some ‘new’ hair metal recorded at the scene of the crime and not reimagined by post modern hipsters or balding has beens looking to reignite their glory days thanks to a small pay check from voracious nostalgia-loving record labels. If you love(d) this style of music, buy the record. You’ll find plenty here that raises a smile a la recherche du temps perdu.
Black Bambi is released on August 18th by 20th Century Music