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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… Momus, Voyager April 14, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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The first I heard of Momus was on the near peerless Creation, Doin’ it for the Kids compilation from the late 1980s, back when Creation was good. ‘A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)’ was a taut mixture of the Pet Shop Boys, Brel, self-pity and conceit. And in the swirling outro it seemed entirely appropriate to the collection.

To describe Momus, or Nick Currie, as he was born, as monomaniacal about sexual identity and related matters would be almost understating the situation but then he’s also had a foot in the fine art camp – though whether that is an explanation or an excuse is a different matter. Then consider the music. A mish mash of sounds, as mentioned before one part Pet Shop Boys, one part Brel, one part something else entirely. A cynical sensibility and camp vocals to match.

To be honest this should, on paper at least, leave me cold. I’ve never been one for school of Jacques Brel, with one or two exceptions. But somehow it gels, or perhaps a more appropriate Momus word – congeals, into something more acceptable.

Subsequently he has managed to work through a rich vein of sexuality, arrogance and self-deprecation. I’ve thrown in ‘I was a Maoist Intellectual’ – takeaway line “Though I tried to change your mind I never tried your patience – All I tried to do was to point out your exploitation” from Tender Pervert.

His nearly but not quite narrative subjects revolved around concealment as much as explicitness, about nearly but not quite, or sometimes nearly and well over the top. His album Hippopotamomus is infamous, in some quarters – namely the NME – for the subject matter, incest, necrophilia and… er… that’s the less contentious stuff.

But if that paints him as a sort of artful/artless and overly glib provocateur that’s far from the sum of the parts. Because were that so there would be no self-deprecation and precious little irony evident in the mix.

So, let’s look at what arguably was his most overtly ‘commercial’ album, Voyager, from 1992, which launches into pastures new with mildly techno and dance inflected sounds and beats. Now in fairness this is the very mildest side of that – think William Orbit in a loquacious mood (actually, Orbit’s 1980s material where he still sang on his records isn’t the worst reference point for some of Momus’s work). And in some ways Momus is being oddly tentative given his own synth pop tendencies. And yet, for all that it sounds oddly similar to Electronic’s work during the same period, well no surprise there given that Pet Shop Boys influence on his music.

So if this is all a bit polite, with the lyrics are dialled down big time that’s more a feature than a glitch because it allows his ability with melody and beat to shine through. Tracks like Cibachrome Blue and Afterglow are smart genre walkthroughs that manage to transcend being pro forma by dint of that aforementioned sensibility. Vocation is almost parodic and yet does it in a irritatingly catchy style. Conquistador. Spacewalk, a single, is perhaps the single finest track, with sardonic vocals and a pulsing beat and bass that builds up and up. But Voyager comes a close second.

It’s all strangely listenable, as much for where it diverges from dance as where it aligns with it. There’s a real sense that this is what Momus/Currie thinks dance is, as distinct from what most others would consider it to be. The dislocation that produces is fascinating because while many dance tropes are in evidence – from samples, arpeggiated melodies, there’s something intrinsically askew about it.

He has a site where those who are interested can still download vast tranches of his output. It’s worth the effort.

A Complete History Of Sexual Jealousy (Part 17-24)

I was A Maoist Intellectual

Afterglow

Voyager

Vocation

Spacewalk

Conquistador

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