Wild Mercury Sound (Uncut, May 2012)
Go-Kart Mozart: "On The Hot Dog Streets"
What is Lawrence for? Given the acclaim for the recent "Lawrence Of Belgravia"
documentary, you could be forgiven for thinking that his role as a British eccentric
and pop star manqué is now much more important than the actual music he
makes. That his character is more entertaining than his records.
It's not hard to see how this might have happened, given how Lawrence's wonderful
interviews sometimes touch on a kind of droll, absurd, tragi-comic performance
art (one I did a few years ago involved much tricky scheduling around episodes
of "Home & Away"). Worth noting, too, that Lawrence tends to talk
about releasing records more than he actually releases them: "On The Hot
Dog Streets" is Go-Kart Mozart's first album in six years, with many of its
songs dating back to the '90s Denim era, and was preceded by a Record Store Day
seven-inch with a Roger Whittaker cover.
A few years away from Lawrence's new records tends to make me forget, too, what
they're actually like - for all his pronounced affection for novelty rock, not
all his songs are quite as daft as "The New Potatoes". "On The
Hot Dog Streets" isn't just a very funny record, it frequently makes vital
and potent new music out of a junkshop glam aesthetic that roughly privileges
Staveley Makepeace over Kraftwerk.
The superb "Blowing In The Secular Breeze", for instance, is an ambiguous
paean to declining standards and the fall of Great Britain, set to a rollicking
pub singalong tune that possibly resembles Smokie, if I could remember with any
certainty what Smokie actually sounded like. "Come On You Lot", meanwhile,
is a terrifically effete terrace chant set to music reminiscent of Space (the
"Magic Fly" ones).
Again and again, the musical references fall way outside of the stuff that I usually
listen to (unless @junkshopglamman has brought a bunch of seven-inches into the
office), but they feel invigorated by Lawrence and his band's approach: one that's
much more complicated, intense and beguiling than the nostalgic pastiches you'd
imagine from reading about them. It's a tough challenge, though, to separate how
"On The Hot Dog Streets" sounds from the whole fastidious package, and
the overwhelming stamp of Lawrence. Take the way his chief henchman is billed:
on one side of the inner sleeve, he's listed in the personnel as "K-Tel:
Myriad Of Synthesisers - Synth bass - Wurlitzer - Claptrap upright piano - drum
machine - vocals"; on the other side - "K-Tel would like it known that
in real life his name is Terry Miles."
The sleevenotes provide vast pleasures, before you even get to the lyrics. The
reading and listening provide many tantalising, if not entirely trustworthy, suggestions:
a book called "Arbouretums Along The Old Walsall Road" by SF O'Reilly,
perhaps? Alex Ferguson's erotically-charged version of "Stay With Me Tonight"?
The songs themselves, of course, are endlessly quotable: "Mickie Made The
Most" alone concerns itself with Ricky Wilde and Shack's Mick Head before
extensively reminiscing about 1980s Aston Villa starlet Gary Shaw. And that's
before we get near some of Lawrence's pronouncements on women, relationships and
sex, that come to the fore in "I Talk With Robot Voice", "Electrosex"
and "Men Look At Women". There's a thesis to be written about those
three songs alone.
Once again, though, the cult of Lawrence's pulls us away from the excellent tunes,
richer and so much less superficial than stereotype might suggest. It's not a
pop record, as much as the deathlessly ambitious singer might imagine it to be
- or certainly not a record that resembles much popular music that's been made
in the last 35-odd years. But "Electrosex", "Ollie Ollie Get Your
Collie", "White Stilettos In The Sand" and the belt-buckle rocking
"Queen Of The Scene" ("You think you're in Poland but it's Edmonton
Green!") are all great, some of the best songs he's released since the demise
of Felt, over 20 years ago.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room. Good as "On The Hot Dog Streets"
might be - and the pulsating, mostly spoken-word drama of "Retro-Glancing"
is a classic, I think - it's hard not to wish Lawrence could find a way back to
making records with at least some of the atmosphere and aesthetic of those he
made steering Felt. Perhaps his long-promised solo album, if it ever arrives,
will be something like that. Eventually, he'll make his own "Berlin",
albeit one with much better jokes…
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnRMulvey
29th May 2012
taken from http://www.uncut.co.uk/blog/wild-mercury-sound/go-kart-mozart-on-the-hot-dog-streets