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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 Odd Pop Greats, 6 Dec. 2007
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This review is from: Passionoia (Audio CD)
I never got to grips with Passionoia at the time, which I probably put down to the fact it was the most irritating LP title this side of PJ Harvey's Uh Huh Oh Her, or my belief that 2000's celebrated The Facts of Life was Black Box Recorder's definitive statement. I was wrong, and now I want more...and strangely, Passionoia is the Black Box Recorder LP I listen to the most. Heck, one of the albums I listen to the most these days, for some strange reason. 10 Odd Pop Greats, in case you were wondering...

First things first, Passionoia probably has the best front/back cover twist since 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle - Haines and Moore looking as slick as Bullingdon Club members, Nixey reclined in bikini, corpse in the pool blending Michael Barrymore with Sunset Boulevard, champagne bottles, the kind of place you expect to find Rowan Pelling, interesting reflections, a copy of 120 Days of Sodom...all a bit like Ballard's dark side of suburban utopia. Yes, probably worth buying for the cover alone...

Haines and Moore, the songwriters here, are probably too clever for their own good, and their brand of delectable, subversive pop doesn't get to infect the mainstream and ends up getting celebrated by anally retentive souls like myself alongside folk like baader meinhof, Denim, (early) Fatima Mansions, Luke Haines, Magnetic Fields, Microdisney & Sparks...I will say that it sounds like pop to me, but I like all manner of oddness, so my idea of pop is slightly deranged, which means this is the perfect album. Passionoia, as The Facts of Life, has an electronic edge - something that some critics haven't liked on wonderful Haines solo records like Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop and The Oliver Twist Manifesto (...where else to go after After Murder Park with Albini?). All Luke Haines-associated records should be owned and revered, even the slightly average Now I'm a Cowboy and the slight boring remix thingy not long after that...a national treasure, mark my words...

For the most part, Passionoia wipes away the acoustic elements of The Facts of Life, though I don't really see why this LP was so ignored and seems unsung (...I might have to nominate it for Unsung status on Head Heritage, despite the fact that the band members weren't bearded psych/Kraut types from the US 60s-70s!!). Sometimes these songs don't stand out on their own, but the effect of listening them all together builds up to something like the Village Green Preservation Society made by Girls Aloud imprisoned in the Death Factory...

Passionoia opens with a chant of Black Box Recorder, and the Dre-influenced world of the Oliver Twist Manifesto combines with The Facts of Life, and charts waters just off Beachy Head. Sarah Nixey drifts into dominatrix mode, sounding like Anne Widdecombe forced to sing Venus in Furs, the chant continues, and Nixey is allowed to sing (...though not sure how catchy "Destroy your record collection" is - probably a good idea, unless you're just doing it to win the Turner Prize). It gets even better with GSOH QED, which is very zeitgeist (then and now, dig the anachronism!), and tells you everything you need to know about the Western World you can't get in American Pie: The Wedding. The opening triad of songs concludes with the sublime pop of British Racing Green, which has a strange Hawaian vibe and probably should be played in the shops we buy our clothes in...as much as I love the songs on England Made Me (1997) and The Facts of Life, British Racing Green shows that Haines/Moore (or Moore/Haines) were getting better at their co-writing. It also has a guitar solo that Radiohead would lightly whine for...

Passionoia gets even better with Being Number One, which like the later These Are the Things, probably should have been a huge hit (something that also applies to Lenny Valentino, Unsolved Child Murder, Baader Meinhof, Child Psychology, The Rubettes, The Facts of Life, Weekend, Discomania etc)- the latter is a song that Girls Aloud or Sugababes could have sung, which explains the Richard X Leeds United (another should have been smash...) Being Number One seems to have been viewed like those crap Irvine Welsh novels about policemen who listen to Saxon or The Great Escape by Damon Albarn, sneering at the world it depicts. But it's much better than that, not just the easy target that people like Simon Cowell represent, but is actually attacking the shallow world that most of us exist in (or aspire to, even if we pretend we don't want to work for THE MAN) The Haines/Moore male backing vocals very apparent on The Facts of Life aren't as present on Passionoia, so it's notable that the part on Being Number One when they come in ("God bless the public, God bless number one vs. God bless the radio/God Bless TV vs God bless parking money - these are the days of too much wine and sun...") This is history, pop kids, and with amusing references to Gloucestershire Pig and Max Clifford...

Black Box Recorder and Pete Hofmann refine the sound of the Facts of Life, no more apparent than on The New Diana, a Facts of Life-style ballad with a dash of Kid Loco's Cocaine Diana and that bit about Diana on Blue Jam by Chris Morris. Passionoia is probably the English record that most criticism of the Good the Bad & the Queen's album said that was...a shame that a high budget video wasn't forthcoming for the New Diana. Think about it, Haines & Moore in Monte Carlo, Sarah Nixey on a jetski in leopard-print, and a wonderful denoument in a tunnel in Paris that recalled the final scene of the original version of The Vanishing. In dreams...

Maybe Haines and Moore took things too far with Andrew Ridgley, though the construction of the song seems to be predicting that Xenomania several songs against another quality apparent in something like Biology. The rest of the record is a definite odd pop wonder, especially When Britain Refused to Sing, which has a shift in gear akin to A Walk in the Woods by Fatima Mansions, and now the Black Arts appear with their Xmas single, rumours of a fourth Black Box Recorder LP abound, and John Moore's other works on i-tunes...we're spoilt ambassadors, we really are...in the meantime, here were 10 Odd Pop Greats from Haines, Moore & Nixey.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Sep 2009 15:29:58 BDT
Another very good piece of writing. I have to hear this now. Amazon should be paying you to do this stuff.
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