Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life is set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, a town held together through good times and bad by neighborliness and the inspirational spirit of Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey. In the film, we see an alternate reality wherein George was never born, and in that reality, the people of Bedford Falls say things like this: We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters around to give the joint “atmosphere”. Is that clear, or do I have to slip you my left for a convincer?
The band Bedford Falls, from Cardiff in South Wales, exists in-between those two (fictional) realities. Their songs appreciate why men would want to get drunk fast, they would play well in that bar—but Bedford Falls and their second full-length Elegant Balloons have a certain resilient atmosphere. Like their contemporaries Cheap Girls and Failures’ Union, Bedford Falls are sincerely inspired by 90’s indie rock and power-pop. They have been around since 2003, their influences were absorbed first-hand. Elegant Balloons spins through majors like Bob Mould to mix-tape relics and radio wonders such as The Posies and The Killjoys. This 90’s thing, at least how Bedford Falls does it, isn’t a nostalgic rehashing, a shorthand mood-borrower—it’s honest story telling admiring the stories the band members were told growing up that struck them as the most honest. This album will stick with you. I’m grateful it exists. It’s about that specific time of your life that it turns out never ends. That time when it’s hard and fun and between alcohol and atmosphere, you don’t always make the choice in your best interest.
The first half of the album never knew George Bailey, but pivoting on the song “St. Swithin’s Day,” the second half funnels all of its desperation into determination, doesn’t let itself go under. The transition here is much more interesting than on most albums that have distinct A- and B-side themes, their middle third is more invigorated than the first. That’s what keeps an album moving. Divide it into halves and thirds. Rock math. Elegant Balloons = Essential Listening.
Boys and girls and music. Why do they need gin?
Be a good neighbor and buy Elegant Balloons and the rest of Bedford Falls’ kick-ass discography on their bandcamp. Buy it on iTunes and Amazon (but seriously, if a band you like has their own digital store, like a Bandcamp, never buy from iTunes or Amazon. Just buy it straight from the band. Cut out as many middlemen as you can.). Buy the vinyl from All-In (UK). Buy the CD from Boss Tuneage (UK). Keep up with Bedford Falls on Facebook. Watch the Paul F. Tompkins bit about a real retail store that I pray provides the namesake of this album.