Photo by James BunoanAn obituary for the late, great Bikeride, one of many undervalued local bands that never made it mega. Beloved by millions—well, it could've happened—they put out four terrific albums during their lifespan, generating swaths of glowing ink in big-name pubs like Mojo, Uncut, Magnet and CMJ. They landed a label deal with a Midwestern imprint, even played Japan once. But then, not long after 2002's close-to-perfect Morning Macumba, the entire band fell into a gaping crack in the earth that opened up somewhere near Long Beach, and Bikeride were swallowed whole, never to be heard from again.
Or something like that, anyway . . .
Well, they did vanish for the better part of the past three years. Their last show was at Koo's Art Café—the old Koo's. We naturally assumed Bikeride went bust, and that this Saturday's reunion show at Chain Reaction was just that. But, heh, turns out the band never really broke up to begin with—they've kept regular Wednesday garage engagements all this time; blame them if you didn't know—so it's not a true reunion gig after all.
Why the disappearance? A whole lotta real life got in the way. Bikeride people had babies. Bikeride people went hiking in the Himalayas. Bikeride people had to pay the rent by playing in other bands that had significantly larger followings (fun fact: some Bikeride people are also Aquabats people. Ka-ching!).
But back to Morning Macumba for a sec: this was the album that moved us from "They're not bad" Bikeride fence-sitters to drooly-faced, bug-eyed, heavy-breathing, pom-pom shaking Bikeride cheerleaders. In a sonic half-hour, they ditched the constant Beach Boys references that had tailed them up till then and made a record that actually sounded like something from this decade—more of a Flaming Lips sideshow freak-out than a Brian Wilson bedroom party. There were still some undeniably delicious aural nods to the fluttery '60s pop of the Seeds/Turtles/Beatles/Monkees that singer/guitarist Tony Carbone so admires, and at least two solid in-a-better-world smash-hit singles with the sugary disco bump of "Fakin' Amnesia" and the horn-besotted melody orgasm of "Small Faces." Sonic esoterica reigned supreme—clarinets! Ukuleles! Chimes! Hammonds! Farfisas! Wurlitzers! Mellotrons! Cellos! Timpanis! Toy pianos! All sprinkled around songs rarely lasting more than three minutes, save for the Catholic-rich-kid opus "Americans In Rome," which, at nearly five minutes, qualified as something of a bubblegum rock opera. Morning Macumba was lush and deep—jazzy in parts, Bossa Nova in others, fabulously non-punk everywhere else.
We did not get to hear any of this wonderment live, though, which we're still bitter about. But hey, Bikeride are 10 songs into a new record, which Carbone says should be more horn-heavy, except when they're doing a six-minute prog-rock tune or covering Harry Nilsson's "Without You"—it's Carbone's favorite song ever!
Y'know, there's a chance here: they could still be loved by millions. . . .
Bikeride perform with the Beautiful Mistake, Yesterday's Rising, Reeve Oliver and Wester at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages.
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