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One of the great albums of the 1990s...
on 26 February 2006
Former member of Magazine, Visage & the Bad Seeds Barry Adamson set out on a solo path in the late 1980s, releasing some great soundtrack based work ('Delusion', 'Moss Side Story') as well as producing the underrated Anita Lane (the cover of 'Lost in Music' is fantastic) Adamson had sharpened up by the mid-1990s and with 'Oedipus Schmoedipus' delivered a perfectly eclectic (& eclectically perfect...)album. This record was a critical success, but now seems a little forgotten.
Opening with 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Pelvis' Adamson teams up with Jarvis Cocker, who drifts between Woody Allen irony & Serge Gainsbourg filthiness dealing with his Britpop idol self (the next step would be Pulp's bleak, greatest work 'This is Hardcore')- lyrically the only person since to have discussed this world is Mike Skinner on the new Streets single. "I enter a room and all the girls say C'mon Jarv can I be the first?"- it's helped by using that drumbeat originally found on Sly & the Family Stone's 'Dance to the Music' (&continued on Magazine's 'The Light Pours Out of Me', The Stone Roses' 'I am the Resurrection', Primal Scream's 'Rocks' & Sebadoh's 'Flame'), Audrey Riley's string arrangements & a gospel choir intoning "SAVE ME FROM MY OWN HAND!"...'Something Wicked This Way Comes'fits wonderfully alongside the so-called trip hop work of Massive Attack & Portishead and like those two can be seen to set the tone for things like Goldfrapp & Gorillaz. This would feature in David Lynch's underrated 'Lost Highway', along with some new compositions Adamson made for the Trent Reznor-compiled soundtrack (Adamson previously finding his work on Reznor's soundtrack for 'Natural Born Killers').'Something...' also samples the sampledelic 'Blue Lines' by Massive Attack = which is Adamson's tribute to the Bristol collective I think! 'The Vibes Ain't Nothin' But the Vibes' finds Adamson taking lead vocals, imagine Tom Waits backed by Angelo Badalamenti and you're close - this is the conclusion of the gutter poet feel of the sleevenotes to 'Moss Side Story.'
'It's Business as Usual' has a sinister quality that recalls Butthole Surfers ('22 Going on 23') & Throbbing Gristle ('Persuasion')with samples from the soundtrack to 'Vertigo'. This gives way to Adamson's contemporary cover of Miles Davis' 'Miles' (a.k.a. 'Milestones') which shows a great influence & stands up well alongside Bill Laswell's remixes of Miles on 'Panthalassa'. I think someone should let Adamson do similar remixes of Miles' work at some point in the future (...whilst they're doing box-sets of Miles' every fart...). 'Dirty Barry' has more in common with Adamson's soundtrack work, advancing on the atmospheres of 'Delusion.' It's a wonder Adamson hasn't done more soundtrack work - personally I think he should contribute to the upcoming 'Casino Royale.'
'In a Moment of Clarity' is another vibes driven atmosphere piece that sets the tone for 'Achieved in the Valley of Dolls' a collaboration between former Associate Billy Mackenzie & Adamson. The two set about a sublime pop song that would fit well on any of the Goldfrapp albums, Mackenzie's great vocals & lyrics getting the best backing since his Yello-collaboration 'The Rhythm Divine'. This would probably have made a fantastic single had Mackenzie not took his own life shortly after - this track eventually finding its way onto posthumous compilation 'Auchtermatic.'
'Vermillion Kisses' is another mood shift, an ambient work with storyteller Miranda Gooch, undermining the typical fairy tale in a manner worthy of Angela Carter. 'The Big Bamboozle' is Adamson's ultimate tribute to John Barry and his work on Bond films and related joys like 'The Ipcress File'. Others have tried to get close to Barry since - David Holmes, Craig Armstrong, Primal Scream ('Blood Money')- but this set the tone. 'State of Contraction' has a feel not unlike Satie, setting the tone for the last song proper...
...'The Sweetest Embrace' sees Adamson collaborate with former cohort Nick Cave - their working relationship going back to The Birthday Party's 'Junkyard' (Adamson helped out when Tracy Pew was incarcerated), while Adamson was a Bad Seed from 'From Here to Eternity' to 'Kicking Against the Pricks/Your Funeral, My Trial.' Adamson & Cave reunited with Mick Harvey in 1993 for 'Cassiel's Song' - the best thing about the patchy sequel to 'Wings of Desire', 'Faraway, So Close!' - 'The Sweetest Embrace' is in similar territory. Coming just before Cave's first out and out solo masterpiece 'The Boatman's Call' (...I think Cave's best work veers between late Birthday Party and his work post 1997. The guy's getting better with each year), its lyrics relating to a disintegrating relationship obviously fit well with the PJ Harvey themes of 'The Boatman's Call.' One of Cave's great songs and one that might have slipped by a few people, not being on the great box set of Cave material released last year. Adamson brings the LP full circle with 'Set the Controls Again', a jammed/remixed take on the groove of the opening track and a reminder this album is an extremely complete work.
'Oedpus Schmoedipus' is one of the great albums of the 1990s, like Screaming Trees' musically eclectic 'Dust' & DJ Shadow's classic debut 'Endtroducing' it most definitely brightened up 1996, which was still affected by the slipstream of Britpop/the horrors of National sentiment relating to Euro 1996. Surprisingly, Adamson's work since hasn't been as great - one album saw him form a conventional band and becoming the lead vocalist, which didn't work for me. Clearly the collaboration ethos here had an influence on Damon Albarn's Gorillaz project - I wonder if the two of them would end up working on Albarn's third Gorillaz LP if it's forthcoming?