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A review of...
Better Friends by Bill Botting & The Two Drink Minimums
Ex-Allo Darlin man goes it alone (kind of).
Like a phoenix from the ashes of Allo Darlin, Bill Botting has returned with a debut album that matches that band in warmth, charisma and straight up likeability. And they've got the tunes to match too. This is a supergroup of sorts comprising Paul Rains from Allo Darlin, Jonny Helm from The Wave Pictures, Tom Wade from Owl & Mouse, Laura K from Tigercats, Darren Hayman and Hannah Botting.
As well as being their debut LP it's looking like this may also be their last (in this format at least) and Bill has recently played a farewell show with the Two Drink Minimums and packed up bags and moved back to Australia with his family. So that's two emotional farewell gigs (Allo Darlin had theirs in December, I was there and it was a joyful weepy) and a farewell to a life in London in the space of a few months. It's hard to imagine how the biggest smile in pop has managed to keep his shit together through all that.
Back to the record though, and it's a bit if a indie pop triumph. These are happy/sad songs - Botting's wry and sensitive take on life's lower-key moments - told in his own laid back vocal style. Long drunken nights out, long distance travel and long term relationships are some of the themes here, providing a nice antidote to the more depressing issues of living in the year 2017. That's not to say that all the lyrics are buzzing with positivity, there's plenty of downers in there but it's all still hopeful and its all very danceable.
Musically speaking there's minor key melodies courtesy of Paul Rains' distinctive clean guitar lines (with occasional violent bouts of distorted rage). Jonny Helm and Botting make a formidable rhythm section (they even give their cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland" a bit of a rockabilly kick up the arse). Generally speaking though, the band have the raw energy of a pub rock outfit mixed with a bit of country and the feel-good pop of Botting's much loved previous outfit. A winning combo in my eyes.
Highlights include "Treating You Right", one of those rare songs that sound like you've grown up with them. The lush Kristy McColl-esque backing vocals (presumably supplied by Laura K from Tigercats or Hannah Botting, or both), country vibe and a bit of guest sax from Darren Hayman only add to the feel good magic.
With Better Friends Bill Botting has proven his solo chops, seemingly with ease. If his band really did have a two drink minimum policy they'd be well worth laying out for... [groan].