BBMak! My boys! I know these guys! Christian Burns, Mark Barry, Ste (NOT short for Steve) McNally. Last names staring with “B”, “B” and “Mc.” BBMc. BBMak. Now we know where their name comes from. Let’s never talk about it again.
BBMak were one of those early-2000s teen pop groups with a Sight Beyond. Ambition. Drive. Sheer graceful melody power. Handsome British faces. Jean jackets. Jeans. Colorful smiles. Sensitive college campus guitars. Radio-ready close harmonies. Songs about friendship and love and hand-holding and heartbreak. Man, doesn’t just the thought of that make you feel good and healthy inside? Sure it does. What a fantastic dream come to life.
Not a fabulous group, though. Unfabulous. Not particularly funky or cool or on-the-edge supermodern like, say, *NSYNC. Or any of their teen pop peers. BBMak were straight-laced serious balladeers. They weren’t “down for the get down,” so to speak. They didn’t dance or groove or wear sleeveless tees. Not their style.
You might be tempted to call them “boring.” Hey! Me too. But I won’t cuz it’s not true. Not long ago I wrote a discarded BBMak intro that started like this:
“There is no shame in milquetoast […] Most people are boring, anyway! Almost every person on Earth is boring. This includes me and you and everyone you know. All of your family members and your friends and your aquaintances and your maids and your manservants and your dogs. This is why none of us are famous or popular or particularly well-liked by anybody! Because we are all boring, boring, boring normal people.
This is why I like BBMak! They’re just as boring as the rest of us!”
Wow! What a load that was. Early August 2012 Sean Rose can eat out a pig’s asshole and choke on his own pig-pooey vomit. What a cock-nosed hoser. Thank God he’s dead.
The implication there – the “just as boring as the rest of us” remark – was meant to imply that BBMak have an everyman blue collar appeal. Which is not true in the slightest. We’re talking about three impossibly handsome young British men singing superslick teenage ballads. What is true is BBMak’s approach to millennial teen pop was not unlike Hanson’s or M2M’s: traditional, guitar-based and humble. Sweet melodic songcraft obviously inspired by 60s sunshine pop and power pop, mashed up and flattened out for a teenage audience.
The difference is in the delivery. This is where the “boredom” comes in. Compared to Hanson’s buoyant soul-pop and M2M’s teenage honesty, BBMak do not exude much in the way of personality. Their voices blend together nice and good because all of their voices are nice and good and, well, nearly impossible to distinguish from one another without some serious effort. If BBMak have a personality trait, it would be “generally pleasant young men who want to make you feel nice.” That’s it.
So what we have here is a double-edged sword. At their best, BBMak’s unassuming approach resulted in some of the most guileless and enjoyable teen pop-rock of the early 2000s. At their worst, their lack of character produced some faceless sleepy pop nothings that crawl lazily into one ear and stumble like a fuckin idiot out the other, never to be remembered again. Which is good, ’cause the only BBMak songs anyone will remember will be the great ones! Wow!!
BBMak are a teen pop act I can’t mythologize, as much as I would like to try. Their role in teen pop history is not substantial or influential or even that big of a deal commercially. Their existence was brief and their presence in the hearts of teenagers spotty and strange. I do have to give them some credit for being perhaps the only British boy band to achieve significant success in America at the turn of the millennium, a period of time where popular British teen pop acts were a rare specimen. Perhaps because BBMak didn’t exude a particularly British sensibility in their songwriting. Their lack of personality was an asset, here.
So what do we have with Sooner Or Later, BBMak’s 2000 debut? A pleasant, warm, nice, solid and good piece of work with some structural flaws. Some architectural blemishes that could have been fixed with a little more work. A little more love.
Let’s take a look, shall we??
THE FIRST FOUR TRACKS
Sooner Or Later suffers the familiar full-length teen pop LP problem: it is front-loaded as all get out. Despite featuring only one actual single, the first four tracks here are airtight teenage jangle-pop gems that establish a perilous high standard that the rest of the record can’t hope to live up to. It’s almost unfair! A cruel-hearted trick played on both unsuspecting teenage listeners and BBMak themselves by, I assume, their producers. Poor boys.
But hey. We all like good songs, don’t we? Sure. Let’s talk about good songs.
“Back Here” was the first BBMak single, the most popular BBMak single, and likely the only BBMak single anybody remembers nowadays. Nothing wrong with that. “Back Here” is a tidy summary of everything appealing about the group: the warm acoustic strumming, the nice guy harmonies, the Byrdsy jangles, the hot rockin’ guitar solo in the bridge. If “Back Here” is the only BBMak song you know, well, you know almost everything you need to know about these dudes. It is impossible for me to say that without sounding like a huge condescending prick, but it’s true.
I have to give “Back Here” credit because, despite not being a super powerful and undeniable single, it became a hit through good vibes and sturdy songcraft. It’s just too nice to ignore. Y’know? That’s a nice thought, isn’t it? Doesn’t it make you feel good? It makes me feel good.
Also somebody probably bribed the heck outta some radio stations. Clear Channel etc. Standard evil record label stuff. I don’t know how the music business works! Who cares.
“Back Here”‘s followup threesome could have all been singles. For real! A successful mix of jangly Byrds guitar harmonies with up-to-the-minute modern 2000 teen pop. The BBMak sound, nailed! Nailed to a tree stump!! A big poster that says “THE BBMAK SOUND – NAILED!” that some guy nailed to a tree fuckin stump! He’s givin a thumbs up! Look at that guy. Pat that guy on the head. Good job, guy.
Hooks galore. Check out the woozy guitar R&B of “I’m Not In Love,” the lovely jangle power of “Next Time” and the stadium-ready anthemic power of “Unpredictable.” Check out those hooks, bud. “LOVE. IS. UNPREDICTABLE!!” Whoa, dang, it is! It really is! These guys have it all figured out!!
You wonder why these guys didn’t rip the charts all the fuck up. You wonder. BBMak were popular dudes, sure, but Sooner Or Later‘s first four tracks alone reveal some solid consistent hitmaking potential. That’s four possible hit singles in a row! And that’s just the first four tracks on this album alone! At this rate, what’s stopping these guys from slammin down a hit single for every track on the record?? 12 #1 smashes. I believe it! I believe it can happen!!
Ahh, ehh, uh.
HERE’S WHERE SEAN GETS WORRIED
Here’s where I get worried.
Something I failed to mention about the BBMak Boys: they were one of those “plays their own instruments, writes their own songs” teen pop acts. One of those “don’t call us a boy band” boy bands. Not unlike the previously mentioned Hanson and M2M, they strove for teen pop’s most elusive treasure: authenticity.
ROCK AND ROLL.
Ohh man, these guys wanted to be a real band, y’know? If you don’t believe me, take a long hard look at Ste McNally’s buttocks on the back of your Sooner Or Later CD case and you might notice a familiar name:
Whoa, that’s right! Rob Cavallo, premier alt-rock gunslinger responsible for turning Green Day into Kings of Radio, produced this record. A dude who straddled alt- rock’s pop fringe with the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls and Alanis Morrissette. No other teen pop act was taking this guy on as a producer, so you can tell that BBMak were aiming for a curiously adult audience, the same kind that made “Iris” and “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” big hits. Hence, straight-up pop songs adorned with live drums and rockin’ guitar solos.
Teen pop acts striving for authenticity is always a dicey prospect, but that isn’t the problem here. The problem here is the songwriting. You know those three killer radio-pop non-singles we just discussed? BBMak boys didn’t write them. A bunch of anonymous hired gun duders did. And the tracks the boys actually wrote that populate Sooner Or Later‘s second half? Oof. Not so hot.
Not that you’ll find yourself in actual pain listening to the likes of “Love Is Leaving,” “Love On The Outside” or “Can’t Say.” They’re perfectly pleasant strummy little things, the kind of songs a bunch of your college buds might write if they were in a band and were surpisingly talented. Like, more than you expected. Y’know, like maybe you’re friends with this dude, and he’s OK and all but he got kicked out of your dorm for stripping down to his boxer-briefs and puking jungle juice into the girls’ bathroom shower drain. So you kinda stopped seeing him around. And then like a month later your ex-roommate told you that same guy had started a band and you were like, “the shirtless pink puke dude?” An appropriately skeptical response, I would say. It’s not like that was the first time he did something fucked up and stupid, either. He got into a fight with a dude on the elevator and spent the night in the campus police station the first weekend of the semester. Jesus. Weird that he didn’t get kicked out then. So.
But then your roomie’s like “No I mean they’re OK for what they are,” pops their CD-R into his laptop and plays you “Again,” and you’re like, “Hey! This is above-average college band quality! What a pleasant surprise!” And then you’re like, “Hey! This is an exact note-for-note replica of the last track on BBMak’s first album!” And then you call Ste McNally and he sues your shitty college friends who can go fuck themselves for ripping off BBMak.
Did I fuck up that analogy? No. I didn’t.
What I mean is, they’re fine but unmemorable. You will not find yourself humming them to yourself, unless you have an exceptional memory for every detail of life. Compared to the hot-to-trot hookfuckers that came before them, they drag drag drag Sooner Or Later‘s second half down to the ground. And it doesn’t help that they’re preceded by two less-than-exciting ballads: “I Can Tell” and the semi-popular single “Ghost Of You And Me.” It gives off the unfortunate impression that the BBMaks only had 4 straight-up killer tracks in them to begin with. No! Nooo.
It’s tough to admit. I want to champion self-sufficient teen pop acts as much as I can. I do. But BBMak’s second half doesn’t say much for them as songwriters. Shucks.
But… there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I am dogpiling on BBMak and that is wrong. I failed to mention that they wrote Sooner Or Later‘s two big hits: “Back Here,” and the eternal-forever-in-our-hearts “Still On Your Side.”
You want my gut opinion? You wanna hear what my heart is telling me?? “Still On Your Side” is unimpeachable love. It is a bonafide A-grade haterkiller. Teen pop’s finest ode to forever friendship. The message of “Still On Your Side” is that BBMak will be your friends forever, no matter what. No matter what shit you go through in life, no matter how many friends ditch you and leave you alone and cold, these three stunningly handsome British men will always be there for you. They will still be on your side. Can you imagine a more beautiful message in a pop song??
Come on, I dare you. Name me one. Name me a pop song with a more beautiful message than BBMak’s “Still On Your Side.” Let’s see how wrong you can get. You scumhole.
“Still On Your Side” might be the best BBMak song. OK, it is. It’s a perfect concoction of all things BBMak, only shot with pop-heavy adrenaline, pulling out all the stops with that key change at the end and those new lyrics that pop up out of nowhere right at the end! Wow! The thrill of friendship! This is life, people!
If only Sooner Or Later were a teen pop concept record devoted to friendship. A friendship song-cycle. BBMak had the potential to be teen pop’s most compassionate force. Oh well. At least they had it for one song.
OK. You know what? Take a look at my iTunes playcount for Sooner Or Later. It says everything that needs to be said:
(*note: “Still On Your Side” has been played four more times since this screencap was taken. Please adjust image in your mind accordingly.)
I mean, there it is. It’s all right there.
Why did I not think of this idea before? Why haven’t I done this for every review? Am I the first? The first music blog guy to drop his iTunes playcount in an album review? I might be. Damn. Didn’t realize I was this much of an innovator.
I mean… damn…
So Sooner Or Later is a decent debut for BBMak, a group that could – and eventually would – do better. They were still tied tight to the “boy band” horse. Still had to work with a bunch of outside songwriters and try to make their ballads sound like the Backstreet Boys. They needed some space. Some time to grow. And grow(SPOILER ALERT SPOLER ALERT SPOILER ALERT) they would.
But before they did, they got PUNKED NORWEGIAN STYLE BY M2M OH MY GOD WHAT A BUNCH OF TURDBOYS