Circus Maximus

Melody Maker 25.1.86

AND so we come to the business of constructing pop in 1986. Of tugging, tearing, forgetting, pretending. Of joy, despair, artifice.

And still we find falling in love and saying "no" communicated in simply awful cyphers scraped on bright red plastic. The haircut appears to be mightier than the word.

In times gone by we would turn for solace to that long dead breed, the Singer Songwriter. A kind of authenticity seemed to spring from anything approaching personal suffering and public confession. It was, of course, all bunk. It soon became obvious that Joni Mitchell was not Billy Bragg was not Paul Simon was not Any Old Fool With A Guitar And A Frown . . .

Momus is Nicholas Currie, ex of the desperately underrated Happy Family. He's dancing around the Singer Songwriter graveyard and crunching as many bones as possible beneath his feet. Momus was the exiled Greek god of Laughter and Mockery. For the moment, this is supremely important.

"Circus Maximus" is nine songs long and a hundred miles high. It was born a second ago but remembers everything. The words shake Ancient Rome against the NHS, savour sounds like "entirely sexless head" , and come out like a gospel. There are suggestions of early Prefab Sprout but whereas MacAloon's visions never really did more than cut fleetingly across the pop landscape, Momus celebrates an absurdity at the core of its language. There's a timelessness spawned by the straddling of two thousand years which, in Nicholas' case, is relevant to the last three generations of his family but which can also be as important to Julius Caesar or Duran Duran.

This is a huge, gentle music, half a step away from pop, and in "Lucky Like St Sebastian" and "Little Lord Obedience", probably the most stimulating thing you'll hear all year.




NME review of 'Circus Maximus' 25.1.86

ALTHOUGH IT sounds like the type of name which Fish might have considered initially as an alternative to Marillion, Momus is the title of Nick Currie's latest musical and lyrical ideal. Currie, once of Edinburgh's Happy Family, left for England's capital "curious to see if my Scottish-Hellenic-Hebraic sensibility would be engulfed by London's imperial mix of parochial self-satisfaction and global cut-and-thrust."

'Circus Maximus', the resulting record of songs written since Currie's arrival in London, retains an identity which is clearly detached from the usual fluff flipping and flopping on the swings and roundabouts circuit of chart-bound pop. Caught somewhere between fascination and depreciating wit, Currie's lyrics are steeped in, and swamped by, references to religious puritanism. These biblical allusions are then twisted into perverted parallels of the narcissism and materialism expected from your average " modem lifestyle. " The irony is that these stark religious stories are more disturbing and obsessive than the feigned mania of " rebel yell" pop ditties.

The accompanying soundtrack is sparse and gentle, and it's this quietly cerebral atmosphere which always means that 'Circus Maximus' has a limited appeal and a muted impact. The record conjurs up slightly cloying images of a group of sensitive friends sitting in a circle, on cushions, as they chuckle and cluck together in unison as Momus sings

"never underestimate Mary The original virginal bride Interpretations may vary but I say God was her piece on the side"

and songs about 'The Lesson Of Sodom (According To Lot)', John The Baptist Jones', 'King Solomon's Song And Mine' and 'The Rape Of Lucretia.' But as the opening 'Lucky Like St. Sebastian' track emphasises, Nick Currie's singular brand of pop is closer to Leonard Cohen than it is to the "moderne / quirky folk" tag which allows 'Circus Maximus' to nestle in a niche between the records released on Cherry Red and 4AD.


Cirus Maximus review Sounds 25.1.86

EMPTINESS IN a million mile long words. Nick Currie's debut album as Momus is probably the most pretentious record you will hear; even on Neptune they're mumbling 'Huh?' (translation: 'Huh?').

Words are powerful beasts: they can start wars, summon devils, order pineapple pizzas, tell the cat to stop pissing on the carpet, or describe pain ('Ouch!' or 'John Walters!')

I believe Nick is unusually gifted. Admittedly his voice wears a corset but he has a canny understanding of melody and arrangement.

Unfortunately, he's also an intellectual exhibitionist who has swallowed The Bible, Plato, The Encyclopedia Brittanica, The Rise And Fall Of The Roman Empire and Roget's Thesaurus and ended up with indigestion of the the cranium.

The songs on 'Circus Maximus' vomit these sources up in lumps of half- baked ideas, smothered in the gravy of glibness. Love, lust, martyrdom, democracy and religion get lost in a lyrical world of historical allusion. What made his last EP, 'The Beast With Three Backs', so enthralling was his ability to sing dispassionately about sado-masochism via the eyes and ears of a participant. I still have hopes for Nick but would throw this to the lions, though I have a feeling they would choke on it.