Renaldo & The Loaf-The Elbow is Taboo/Elbonus (2xLP Editions Mego)

When I was in my mid 20’s I got deep into The Residents, and was buying up everything I could find. There was curious collaborative album called ‘Title In Limbo’ between them and an English band called Renaldo & The Loaf. This was the first time I had stumbled across Brain Poole (AKA Renaldo) and Ted Janssen (AKA The Loaf) and I was blow away by how much more fun it was than some of the other Residents albums I had been listening to. It was filled with whimsy, catchy motifs and a vision that had to be admired, if not truly understood after the initial listens. After doing some digging Renaldo & The Loaf had three more albums, two on The Residents Ralph Records label. These were also rammed with captivating riffs and devastating loops. The one that stood head and shoulders above the rest was ‘The Elbow is Taboo’. After a few weeks of being lost in its wonky charm, as usually happens, something else had whet my whistle and Renaldo & The Loaf were put on the ‘to rediscover later’ pile.

That time is now, thanks to a deluxe reissue of ‘The Elbow is Taboo’. As well as the original nine tracks, there are 13 ‘Elbonus’ tracks also included. Yes, of course ‘The Elbow is Taboo’ is still fantastic and feels like it’s from the not too distant future, and the remasters sound deeper, cleaner and more vibrant than the originals, but it’s with the ‘Elbonus’ tracks that the reissue really comes into its own. 

The tracks mostly different versions of album tracks or nothing more than demos/rough sketches. Opening track ‘El Boaca Pella’ feels like an early draft . There is studio banter, click track beats and a rough hew that is hard to ignore. What is captivating is how with very few elements Renaldo & The Loaf really have you in the palm of their hand, and when it end you are thirsty for more. Luckily there are another 12 tracks to quench you. But where the album really comes alive is when you listen to the tracks that weren’t selected for inclusion on the album and ended up as B-Sides. ‘Mouldy Bread on Bent Street’ is an eerie and claustrophobic masterpiece. A delightfully wonky loop is the star, but as it winds on the tension starts to be ratcheted up and things take on a malicious tone. At the half way point tribal rhythms take over and Renaldo & The Loaf are taking us to unexpected places. And this is that ‘The Elbow is Taboo/Elbonus’ does fantastically well. Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, Renaldo & The Loaf throw a curve ball and you perceived meaning disappears into the ether, much like the previous melody you were listening to.  

What separates ‘The Elbow is Taboo/Elbonus’ from the early Ralph album is the clarity of their vision and cohesiveness of the songs. Part of this can be attributed to the technological advances in the four years between albums, but the lion share of the praise has to be given to Janssen and Poole’s composition and arrangements. This is the album where the songs lived up to the band early promise and they delivered their strongest album, at this point in their career. Sadly we’d have to wait 29 years for its follow up, the glorious ‘Gurdy Hurding’, but ‘The Elbow is Taboo/Elbonus’ still remains their most enjoyable and determined album to date. NR.