Reviews



Go-Kart Mozart: Instant Wigwam and Igloo Mixture


Go Kart Mozart is the new (solo) project from Lawrence Heyward -- a brilliant musician, an avid meat eater and a guy who's supposedly frightened of fruit. For the last twenty years, he's been one of the most fascinating performers on the British rock scene, with two previous bands behind him: Felt, who were the British equivalent of Television, and Denim. While Felt made ten records in ten years, Denim released only three full-lengths in a decade, with the first two reflecting Lawrence's own take on glam rock. You still might be able to find Denim On Ice, which shows Lawrence's ability to out-perform and out-entertain bands like Pulp (for whom Denim frequently opened).

Denim's third CD, the neglected Novelty Rock, is more of a precursor to Go Kart Mozart's songs. Such strange and funny lyrics as those found in "the Potato Song" ("I lived in a field/And now we live in a tin/We are the new potatoes") were commonplace, and made exceedingly catchy through Heyward's belief in repetition. Meanwhile, the melodies showed his sincere love for bands like the Osmonds and Showadaddy (the British Sha Na Na), and an ample supply of Casio-based music suggested that Heyward was also haunted by video games. Nothing describes the new phase in Lawrence's career better than his band's name. By pairing "go kart" with "Mozart", we're getting what it implies: the musical equivalent of Picasso's faux-naif stage (when he sought to draw like a child).

Bands like the very good Pooh Sticks have entertained similar aspirations, but Go Kart Mozart are a step above them thanks to Lawrence's satirical gifts, wordplay ("Hip Op" is about the Queen after a hip operation, not his take on that musical genre) and deft use of lyrical juxtaposition. While "Here is a Song" is a simple but amazing sing-along that would make a perfect number one tune "for you to sing", Go Kart Mozart's tracks often live or die by whether you're paying attention the lyrics. The chorus to the advertising jingle "Drinking Um Bongo" is the words in the title, with "Um Bongo" referring to a British soft drink, but its lyrics refer to the Rwandan struggle ("The aid that you paid never got through/Machete in the hand of a hutu"). There's also "Sailor Boy", a jaunty little tune about getting sodomized, and "Depleted Soul", a synth exercise about killing a girl.

In the way he contrasts dark and light, a la David Lynch in Blue Velvet, you could easily believe that there's a message behind Lawrence's new work. It's hard to hear the hilarious instrumental "Today" (in which the Association's "Windy" is given a "Pac Man"-style musical treatment), though, without thinking that Lawrence Heyward has the balls to do just about anything. As with Captain Sensible's long sneezing episodes in Meathead, you may at first find it easy to object to some of Go Kart Mozart's material -- but you'll be pleased to discover that you recall the songs with good-humored admiration. In the end, you'll wind up falling in love with Lawrence Heyward's new direction.

Theodore Defosse