GOD’S ON HIS LUNCHBREAK (PLEASE CALL BACK) – Martin Gordon (Radiant Future)
If you lend any credence to the old adage that nobody likes a smart ass, then just call Martin Gordon public enemy #1, the former Sparks, Jet, and Radio Star member and Rolling Stones session dabbler extending the mordant, startling cavalcade of incandescent pop music he first foisted on a largely unsuspecting public with 2003’s “The Baboon In The Basement.”
While it may be tempting for us mere mortals to wish a pox on Gordon, he’d probably just laugh it off anyway and reach into his pocket for another handful of pixie dust, like he does with “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back),” the final installment of his Mammal Trilogy (2004’s “The Joy of More Hogwash” representing the middle chapter) and another thaumaturgical convergence of cynicism, dulcet tones, and showboating. I really need to burn my thesaurus…
Gordon seems fully incapable of writing a song that is anything short of robust, cramming every available space with the torrent of lyrical and musical ideas cascading from his id, ego, superego and beyond, heady, swirling, sweeping masterpieces not too proud to wisecrack, nudge, and wink.
If there are any Sparks fans out there still in denial about the contributions Gordon made to the arrangement of “Kimono My House,” one listen to album opener “Fickle,” with tinkertoy piano flourishes right out of Ron Mael’s bag of tricks, should have the lot of you scrambling for the sanctity of a razor blade and a warm bath. All that’s missing is the oily hair, Hitler moustache, and pedophile countenance.
Songs like “Here Comes The Family” and “A Portion Of Paradise” are, quite simply, what ears were attached to human heads for, impeccably built from the foundation up, no chinks in the armor, instantly imprinted on the frontal lobe and, aside from Todd Rundgren, 10cc, and Robyn Hitchcock, the type of otherworldly, necromantic pop you’re unlikely to find anywhere else on this mortal coil.
As with all Gordon ditties, the vibrancy of the hooks often causes one to overlook the fact that subject matter ranges from heart-blocking comestibles (“Gimme Food”) to Ghanaian crumb snatchers (“Miracle Baby”) to shattered hopes and dreams on the cricket pitch (“Bad Light Stops Play”).
Make no mistakes about “The Captain of the Pinafore,” though. It’s just what you feared: a revved-up, spirited rip through the Gilbert & Sullivan show tune.
Gordon has once again surrounded himself with Sweden’s finest, Pelle Almgren, on vocals, and ex-Jook Chris Townson keeping things steady from behind the drum kit, reigning in Gordon’s eclectic arrangements and scattergun melodies that buckle under their own weight. Assuming the guitar chair this time around is 23-year-old boy wonder Enrico Antico from a certain boot-shaped peninsula. Gordon fills in the blanks everywhere else.
As if it wasn’t already obvious, “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back)” clearly establishes Gordon as a god among insects, a fulsome treat dancing the devil’s razor between transcendent and too damn smart for its own good. Hedging his bets, he hints that his next project may involve heavy lifting equipment, earthmovers, and pile drivers. Somebody pass the petrol. - Clark Paull
Available for order here.
THE JOY OF MORE HOGWASH - Martin Gordon (Radiant Future)
Well, another miserable year on this dismal rock has come and gone and everyone's favorite wart on the ass of progress (and I mean that in the most complimentary fashion imaginable), Martin Gordon, is back with another impossibly great masterpiece of pathos, social commentary, and hard, polished pop. Getting monotonous, innit?
Following less than a scant twelve months after the release of 2003's cocksure "The Baboon In The Basement," "The Joy Of More Hogwash" is another glimpse into the psyche of a man standing back and observing this world's
downward spiral while taking care not to get sucked into the vortex.
Album opener "Oh No What Shall We Do (Daddy Lost His Head In A Coup)" is flush with the rousing sound of a killer, sweeping chorus that only something
like the Nigerian internet banking swindle can inspire. And despite an opening verse of "You can touch me everywhere/Run your fingers through my hair/Rummage through my underwear/See what you find," songs with the lushly arranged, upside-down Roxy Music stylings of "Fuss Me" were never meant to answer the questions of the universe.
Ditto "Her Daddy Was A Dalek, Her Mummy Was A Non-Stick Frying Pan," a Bonzo Dog-esque titled tale of inter-planet love with an ascending chorus and filled with anthemic euphoria. "Plug 'n' Play," powered by the choppy guitar of Andy Reimer and a Pelle Almgren lyrical delivery that positively reeks of sneer, is a knuckle-cracker that would probably send Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen and Robin Zander scurrying for the corners of a blank white room. Which may explain why that band's management was aghast when a review of "Baboon" called it "the best Cheap Trick CD since the 80s." Touchy...
The final "Baboon" holdover, drummer Chris Townson, holds things together with an impeccable sense of timekeeping honed by years staring at the backs of Jimi Hendrix and various members of Jet, John's Children, and The Who.
The band's hypnotically shimmering take on "Love Power" from Mel Brooks' cult wonder "The Producers" was recorded in the same Berlin studio from which Josef Goebbels spoke to the masses about peace, love, and understanding. And on analogue 2-inch tape no less!
"Hogwash's" finale, "Stop The World" ("...I want to get off/That's it for me I've had enough") may be the closest thing Gordon comes to a grand statement; Almgren's harmonies a thing of beauty, Townson providing the machine-like propulsion, Reimer firing on all fours, and the man himself ranting and crying for mercy from a world packed to bursting with "boy bands, white hip-hoppers, lifestyles of the rich and braindead," and "hysterics in Hollywood who wouldn't know culture from the rear end of a dead dodo." A man after my own heart who, if you didn't know better, you'd swear was living in America instead of Berlin.
Like he did with "Baboon," Gordon once again handles the production and arrangement chores and somehow manages to satisfy those who prefer their pop music full of slick surfaces as well as those who enjoy a bit of crunchy, sonic roughage in their diet. I think I sense a crack in the facade, though. He actually shares songwriting credits on "Fuss Me" with Almgren and Pelle Andersson.
If the nimble, fuzz-stomp arrangements and writing Gordon is quickly building a reputation on could be correctly harnessed, they could light our cities. In a more perfect world, radio would be awash with the parade of tight, smart gems he has crafted for "The Joy Of More Hogwash" instead of reverberating with the unmistakable sound of millionaires' pension plans being topped-up. His wry observations on culture (pop and otherwise) are delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek and his knack for sardonic, paper-cut sharp lyrics, adrenalized pop hooks, and grinning, gibbering genius is as dependable as the tides.
Get your wallet out. - Clark Paull
Available for order here.
THE BABOON IN THE BASEMENT - Martin Gordon (Radiant Future)
It's tempting to try to fashion some sort of cheesy pun out of the name of Martin Gordon's record label, but the guy's been around far too long to be afforded the type of newcomer status for which the words "radiant future" are usually reserved.
Fair enough. Gordon played bass on and provided most of the arrangements on Sparks' brilliant "Kimono My House" (1974), one of the albums that relieved some of the suffocating boredom yours truly endured during high school in Detroit as well as one that was universally loathed by everybody I ever played it for. Gordon bid the Mael brothers a not-so-fond "adieu" after discovering the dynamic within the band to be a little less democratic than he was originally led to believe. Being asked to use a Fender bass during live rehearsals instead of his customary Rickenbacker also stuck in his craw. Flaunting said four-string on "Kimono's" back cover probably didn't help smooth things out either.
After leaving Sparks, Gordon formed the short-lived glam supergroup Jet, whose only album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker. Jet later morphed into Radio Stars, a group mistakenly lumped in with the British punk/new wave scene, probably on the basis of their single "Dirty Pictures," which I still have on 7-inch vinyl somewhere. After two years, two albums, and what must have seemed like interminable touring, Gordon split for Paris, where he found gainful employment as house producer with Barclay Records and sat in with the Stones a few times while their bass player (what was his name again?) went out for a fag, uh, cigarette.
Since then, Gordon hasn't been sitting around on his ass - he's provided keyboard, programming, producing, co-writing, and arranging services for the likes of Kylie Minogue, George Michael, Boy George, Blur, Primal Scream, and Robert Palmer (among others) - as well as handling the bass chores for John's Children on their yearly retirement gigs. Showoff...
"The Baboon In The Basement" is Gordon's first solo album and, quite frankly, may be the best thing I've heard so far this year. Sonically, its very essence is unmistakably Pommy, recalling an era of pre-marketing age innocence (read 1970's). At the risk of starting a chicken/egg argument, it's immediately apparent that Gordon traffics in the same skewed pop smarts and wiseguy wordplay his old employers in Sparks are famous for. Like "Hit Him On The Head (With A Hammer)." Not long after snarling feedback from the guitar of Andy Reimer kicks this one off, you're singing along with the chorus. By then it's too late - you've bought into Gordon's twisted vision. The guitar sound Gordon (yep, he produces too!) coaxes out of Reimer is enough to send you scrambling to locate your old T. Rex albums, the scrunchy power chords which intro album opener "It's Like It's Like" exhibiting instant heroic appeal to those of us old enough to remember when downtuning wasn't all the rage.
Although it's Gordon's name on the cover of this disc, apparently he's remembered the lesson he learned when rubbing elbows with the Maels in that he's only too glad to share the glory on "The Baboon In The Basement" and let's face it - there's plenty to go around. Pelle Almgren's vocals are a real treat, sort of a robust mixture of Cheap Trick's Robin Zander and Squeeze's Chris Difford, inviting a sing-along on most every song and never overextending his reach. He even makes a song about ending a relationship ("Anyway Goodbye") sound like a reason for celebration. Gordon's running mate in John's Children, drummer Chris Townson, proves himself more than capable of handling most anything Gordon throws at him in the way of arrangements. Filling in for Keith Moon (who'd injured himself throwing his drums around onstage) on the last four dates of a Who tour in 1967 was apparently not a bad trial by fire.
In the end, though, it's Gordon's huge talent as an arranger, writer, producer, bassist, keyboardist, backing vocalist, and programmer which provide the slab on which "The Baboon In The Basement" is built. Rumors about him cleaning ashtrays in the studio are thus far unfounded...
Other than three covers (the Stones' "We Love You," Marc Bolan's "Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles," and Roy Wood's "Tonight"), he wrote all of the songs here and at the risk of appearing starstruck, just thinking about the craft that went into combining a wry sense of humor with hooks that stick immediately makes my head spin. "Why Do I" and "Greenfinger" in particular are disturbingly catchy, both sprinkled with a liberal coating of Gordon's production fairy dust.
Barflies looking for fuck-me riffs and fuck-you swagger may do well to look elsewhere. I say man does not live by Stooges/Radio Birdman/MC5 rock action alone (complaint letters should be sent to The Barman). At the end of the day, there's something (hell, a lot!) to be said for a guy like Martin Gordon and his vision of a world filled with spirited campfire songs which mix pop goo with glam swirl (shaken, not stirred), not the least of which may include the word "genius." Live with it...- Clark Paull
Available for order here.
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