Review by Mick Mercer



There was a bit of a flap yesterday in ..Mercerville.., which is rare, as I’m sure you can imagine because I’m the sort of bloke who tuts wearily as others surround the digital clock on a bomb as it slowly ticks down. With ten seconds left I amble over, have a little look and then admit that nope, they’d better consult the manual.
Unflappable, bordering on inert. I’m not talking about the fact Mack cat was away in the gardens behind us for three hours this morning, without so much as a look back, his longest free jaunt yet, causing me to wander the streets in front to ensure he wasn’t getting through any side gates and loping idiotically towards the main road! He came back when he was hungry and all was well, and of course I was a picture of calmness throughout. Ahem…

No, I couldn’t find my copy of KK’s enchanting debut, that was the problem. I found that EP they did, also a CD I’d burnt of the live mp3s they once had on their site, which is something they may wish to repeat, but no album. I had to turn the whole office upside down, while a disinterested Mabel cat yawned at me from the office chair she’d claimed as her own. And finally, later that evening, the album turned up, in a box of UK Decay bootlegs of all things. Perfect filing Mick, well done Sir! And all of this was done to a soundtrack of this new album, aided and abetted by Cyndi’s ‘Merry Christmas’ album, a Billie Holiday compilation and some early music recordings named ‘Lamentations’ which seemed fairly apt. I’ve been blue, but I’ve been kept cheerful. I felt determined, and I was victorious!

And now, on with the review….

Well no, actually first I want to have a little moan. Who stuck a sticker on this? It’s an outrage. They’ve put together a quite beautiful digipak sleeve with bizarre illustrations, like Steampunk meets Monty Python, scrupulously clean in black and white, and this sticker is on there ruining the whole thing. I hope actual purchasers aren’t to have this inflicted upon them? It just seems so wrong.

And now we’ll do the review, he sniffed, piously.

Seeing as the press release is informative I’d better give the unknowing some basics myself. They’re a French post-punk band with cabaret visuals and much imagination in the shady lyrics, sung in English. ‘Jack’s Parade’ starts prettily enough, the light musical tendrils attached to a slumbering creature of gentility with perfumed percussion and sorrowful strings, and you might think you’re in the realm of avant-pop, but then vocals tear around like an agitated beast on manoeuvres, and as usual trying to follow their lyrics in the delightful booklet helps very little, as it’s like a surreal set of jottings. Still, we’re off to a sneaky start, which is always good, and their sound has grown a little larger, smoother, and rowdier. Corpuscularly confident, you might say. Then the atmosphere deepens and ‘Hidden & Sick’ is like a wayward darting thing Siouxsie’s Creatures might once have written if they’d thought of it, and this is one of the funny things of this band. It sounds like something you might be used to, almost a casual retread of the opener, but there is more grace sliding around and the words tell quite another story. Often a very scary story….

‘10 Years’ is the sound of the unhinged, in opulent surroundings, the vocals airy, the twinkling surrounds occasionally narrowing into a furtive channel, lazy guitars circling pipe sounds and more brittle percussion and daunted vocals, then it gathers up it skirts and stomps lustily, and each of these songs have crafty, catchy choruses. ‘Percy Has Returned’ is a whirlpool of noir club sensitivities, starting like a corrupted cabaret, stretching out like lean Post-Punk with smoky, knowing vocals, then ending abruptly so ‘Nothing But His’ can wriggle over ominous piano and shifty drums and introduces a moodier, darker sound.

‘Sunshine Sanatorium’ brings weird voices into play, one of which sounds like a deranged Mickey Mouse. That might even be intentional but the more manic tendencies are trapped in the words, as the music restrains itself, just as the lyrical subjects were probably restrained. It struggles in a strange way, which is admirable. ‘A Real Gentleman Or The Mad Lover’ is a subtle bouncy and moaning thing, the muted tone requiring you lean into it trying to decipher the contents. Ostensibly easy on the ear it’s lugubrious menace, and ‘Once Eliot Turned Ugly In His Lover’s Bed’ is equally topsy-turvy, like Visage meets KaS Product.

‘Wondered Colonel Killed Couple’ is a brilliant title to engage Bauhaus fans, but it’s gone before you know it, a scampering flicker. ‘Collage’ flits around saucily, dipping and twisting, a dolphin in space (with cunning breathing apparatus, naturally). ‘Romance’ is a fairly orthodox post-punk spree, lightly frazzled guitar and wheezing synth swamping the singing.
‘45’ has bleakly compressed pop charm with a slowly meandering vocal pout and they’re done.

It’s a curious record, sometimes uplifting, sometimes disturbing, predominantly enigmatic. They don’t really thrust it at you the way most bands would, so it’s more a series of little spectacles for you to observe, which keeps thing weird, and there are layer upon layer to unpick and uncover, the words enthralling and bizarre.

Try it. You’ll see what I mean.