TELEPHONE RECORDS 8th July 2016
24 tracks of jaunty little chugging tunes about something or nothing, crammed into 43 minutes. Captivating in their inconsequentiality. Like the opener says “I’m Going To Do Something Soon”. Tunes run from 30 seconds to 3 minutes and are accompanied by folk-ish bumps, bangs and jangles. It reminds me of the spirit of Ivor Cutler, the observer of the mundane thought, and also a Scot (though Martin Creed was born in Wakefield, which some would say, explains many things).
Princess Taxi Girl hymns a girl who doesn’t like to walk from place to place. Understanding is some sort of pub argument about claiming victimhood. If It’s Not One Thing celebrates, in party style, always having something to grump about. Where Are You Gonna Be is far more affecting than 1 minute twenty seconds deserves to be. Prisoner Of Rhythm tells us how he just repeats what others do. What Is It goes; “what is it, where is it, why is it”, then reprises – simple, baffling, endearing. Do You Know What I Mean is a standout piece of simple repetition ad absurdum. On the other hand, maybe Let’s Come To An Arrangement might be my favourite for its rattling trip through the thesaurus. I Woke Up is a fragment of dream. It’s You is somehow deep and profound while being saccharine and simple. Text Me Back is a Brecht-meets-Beckett mix of theatre and desperation played out atop a drum beat and drone. The Direction Of Love is strangely beautiful, repeating over and over “that’s the direction that love is in”, while never telling us what direction.
He’s done this sort of thing before, creating spikey silliness on his own and other labels, alongside his career as an artist. To steal from the press notes this is: “work that is as accessible as it is challenging – further testament to an ingenious individual for whom art, of whatever stripe, is a vehicle for the unswerving evocation of what it is to be alive.” In other words, it’s a collection of thoughts that passed through Creed’s mind whilst travelling about, set to tunes to become earworms for others. As well as making music like this, Martin is a visual and conceptual artist. In 2001 he won the Turner Prize for “Work No. 227: The lights going on and off”, a piece in which, er…., the lights go on and off in an empty room. Other installation work has followed, like 39 metronomes, each set to a different speed. His best known works include “Work No. 79: some Blu-tack kneaded, rolled into a ball and depressed against a wall” and “Work No. 88, a sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball”. By his own account, fed up with painting, Martin prefers to document ideas where he can communicate and this set shows no paucity of ideas.
Like The Residents’ Commercial Album, 40 one-minutes slices of melody, pauses are needed to appreciate the oddity and cleverness here – background music this ain’t. Flip forward to the thumping (You Put Your) Hand In My Hand for an exciting rush of clichés, maddening yet real and punctuated with woodwind – classy madness. Exciting and exhausting. Hit pause before the next.
Thoughts lined up is both too much and not enough of a good thing. Just like even a vinyl album side of Ivor Cutler was a touch too much and one track left you wanting more, Martin has made something best heard in EP chunks, where it’s sheer strangeness and charm leave a golden glow between the ears.