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5.0 out of 5 stars
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5.0 out of 5 stars
Art Pop
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 2 October 2007
Colin Newman is probably most famous for being one of the four members of the highly influential and revered band we know as Wire. For sometime now, it's become apparent that Wire have influenced many acts that followed - Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen, REM, David Bowie, Elastica, Big Black, Minor Threat, Blur, Franz Ferdinand, Mudhoney etc etc etc - though this adoration is more towards their trilogy of records on Harvest in the late 70s. The 80s-90s years on Mute offered up lots of great stuff too, though the electronic side seemed to put off a fair few - both those years produced something like pop: 'Outdoor Miner', 'Mannequin', 'I am the Fly', 'Dot Dash', 'Eardum Buzz', 'Ahead', 'Silk Skin Paws'...but the way Wire tempered the pop with the avant put off quite a few. The third phase of Wire, putting Wir to one side, saw the band play a very modern version of their late 70s selves - probably not giving quite what some critics or people may have wanted? Strangely, this third release from Githead is probably that pop record many probably wanted from Wire...

Spinning off work Newman has released on the Swim compilations with many of the musicians who are here, 'Art Pop' follows 2004's 'Headgit' mini-LP and 2005's debut 'Profile.' The band include Newman, partner Malka Spigel, Robin Rimbaud, & Max Franken - Spigel has made many records with Newman, while Rimbaud is known to many as Scanner. Both Franken and Spigel were in the cult band Minimal Compact, who we don't seem to know much about in this country...Strangely, Githead play in a conventional rock band form - Newman on vocals and guitar, Rimbaud on guitar, Spigel on bass and vocals, and Franken on drums - something that Wire eschewed when hitting the sequencers and not bothering with a drummer. 'Art Pop' is the record that Franz Ferdinand would have made with their first two records if they hadn't been a pop act like Girls Aloud at heart...

There are elements here as sharp as Wire in any phase, though if thinking of comparisons, I'd say 'Pink Flag' and 'Read and Burn 01' - maybe you should think of the odd angular pop found on 'A-Z' and bonus material like 'Not Me' and 'Don't Bring Reminders.' 'Art Pop' is packed full of joys, the song I'm obssessed with is 'Drive By', which has some fantastic repetition and the refrain "You were overloaded in your in-box today/You understand nothing in your in-box today," which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about modern life and how it is rubbish.

Opener 'On Your Own' has some guitar that seems very Wire before settling down to something that sounds quite conventional - the verse/chorus/verse thing and what a chorus at that. In a parallel universe this would be a hit! The following 'Drop' is almost funky and makes me wonder if Newman & co set out to make a record that would demonstrate how mediocre the Wire-imitators were in comparison? If this was the new Blur or Franz Ferdinand record, people would get very excited. Sadly, it's just a cult joy on a small indie label! There's a change of mood with 'Lifeloops', a minimal acoustic ballad where Spigel takes lead vocals, shifting the mood from the manic 'Drive By' to the sublime 'These Days' - the kind of song the reformed New Order never managed.

'Jet Ear Game' shifts things again, the band having a brief detour into the avant-electronica realm - it might make people think of Eno or the kind of thing that would appear on those great Swim compilations. Rimbaud's career as Scanner is probably more apparent on 'Jet Ear Game' and the following 'Space Life' - the latter sounding like a 21st Century AR Kane with a vocal not far from Genesis P-Orridge. This is followed by 'All Set Up', which is very, very Wire - though it would have to be the 70s Wire when Newman was dominating the songwriting. This might be one of the great lost Wire songs like 'Not Me' or 'Alone' - certainly a companion to songs like 'Outdoor Miner' (which it sounds a little like) and 'The 15th.' There are some great dubby-electronic bits, so this is a 21st century 'Outdoor Miner'?

The album shifts into avant territory with 'Darkest Star', which features Spigel on vocals and is very electronic - the side of Wire that many didn't appreciate on records like 'Manscape' and 'The First Letter.' Spigel stays on lead vocals for 'Rotterdam', which has a slightly blissed out feeling and sounds like a more structured My Bloody Valentine when Blinda Butcher sang. 'Art Pop' concludes with the epic 'Live In Your Head', which is slightly formless and probably what Happy Mondays might have sounded like had Fripp and Eno abused them with oblique strategies.

I'm not sure why 'Art Pop' has hardly been acknowledged this year - it's a definite highlight of 2007, and another example of greatness from middle aged musicians (see: Throbbing Gristle, Nine Horses, The Fall, Melvins, Julian Cope, The Blue Nile, Edwyn Collins, Nick Cave...what is it with these oldies?). A travesty that 'Art Pop' wasn't nominated for the Mercury Award, since it seems to me the type of record that typifies that award. & it could do with the attention, the Klaxons record was OK, but 'Art Pop' is tremendous. One of my favourite records of 2007...
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