Jon James

This album has an old curiosity shop feel to it – you dig around and keep coming across surprising little obscure gems that delight and amaze you in equal measure. Track six encapsulates this perfectly. It’s called ‘Suck Face Abstract’ (no, me neither…) and starts to play out like an epic Springsteen-esque tale of dustbowl Americana before paradoxically being clipped short at only 45 seconds by a kissing sound effect created using what sounds uncannily like a sink plunger.

There are several theatrical flourishes to the album – its split into two distinct ‘Acts’, with the afore-mentioned mini-track effectively an ‘intermission’. James likes to play up to the role of court jester – the cover art depicts him in various old fashioned theatre posters and costumes, and he conducts the music like a seasoned pro of a circus ringmaster.

The album is packed to the rafters with energy and ideas. There are stacks of riotously loud guitars, glorious melodies bouncing all over the place; and lyrics delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. On opening track ‘Blue Balls’ James tells us that ‘All the dance floor romantics / are whippin’ it out / they’re the sloppiest kissers / but scrappy no doubt’

He doesn’t pull off all the ambitious ideas completely 100% - ‘Snake Oil (Beautiful Delusion)’ feels too much like a pastiche of some Deep South drawl. But when he does hit the spot, he really pulls it off in style on numerous occasions - ‘Big Bang Scene’ crashes around inside your head like a Tasmanian devil on heat. ‘Cowboy Harmony’, ‘Crash Car Superstar’ and ‘Ballerina No.1’ all offer up raucous vaudevillian tales of extravagant characters played out against a giddy carnival atmosphere soundtrack.

Final track ‘Introducing Mr. Tenacity’ is billed as a ‘Disclaimer’ and shows his more reflective, contemplative side. It still constantly amazes me when someone actually manages to make individual and original sounding music these days, and this is album is a delightful treasure trove of thrilling surprises.

Steve Claire