FOR a decade, over beautifully frail musical shadowplay, Momus has been sketching vignettes of lust and perversion always a couple of steps too close to home. His eerie, unsettled melodies are a velvet stage for his tortured paedophiles ('The Guitar Lesson') and uxoricidal romantics ('Murderers, The Hope 0f Women'), never Jack The Ripper, always Humbert Humbert, doomed anti-heroes formed from our unthinkable thoughts.
Even at his tenderest ('Closer To You'), the impression is that of a stifled carnality spluttering bile, a man tormented by the urge to kill the thing he loves. His fascination with sex and death goes beyond morbidity into a theatre of catharsis - he is the angelic voyeur, the tender pervert, the poison boyfriend, his entire body of work a disturbingly cinematic psychotherapy session.
But Momus has changed. There are no short stories here, no glimpses into the inferno. 'Timelord' sounds like an attempt to come to terms with the loneliness of a life lived by proxy - the man sounds exhausted, embittered, the songs have lost the perilous wit that smoothed their sides and deepened their darkness; what is left is a cold, crumbling skeleton with one huge teardrop hanging out of its eye. The album returns constantly to themes of ageing, change and decay.
It reaches its logical, beautiful conclusion with three bursts of fluorescent vapour that float shapelessly in the space between tears and sleep. What would once have been lupine turns luminous, lunar. In "Landrover", a Momus fable drowns in phosphorescent waves; "Suicide Pact" and "Christmas on Earth" are empty spaces of mist and light, songs of complete alienation.
But, strangely, this is an outsider pushing further still, out into spaces entirely his own, hopelessly lonely but free. It's as though in tearing out his guts he has somehow been cleansed - the demons have turned to despair, but at least, at last, as the closing "Breathless" reveals, what will survive of him now is love.
The drama of exile reaches a strange, bittersweet conclusion.
MOMUS Timelord (Creation) Poor Momus. Eleven years in the game and not a hint of a hit. He sees himself as the English Serge Gainsbourg but critics reckon he's a nightmare cross between John Sessions and Bernard Manning. Despite which, this isn't a bad album. It sounds like a spacey Pet Shop Boys, and the heavy irony seems to have been discarded for the painfully graphic AIDS song 'Enlightenment'. No, not bad at all. MM
MOMUS Timelord (Creation all formats)
MOMUS ALBUMS are beautiful, fragile, emotionally fraught and generally doomed affairs. Nick Currie, Creation's second longest servant after Primal Scream has been playing the elegantly wasted chanteur for a decade now, and weariness with being the eternal bridesmaid has started seeping into his work.
'Timelord' finds him back on terra firma after his intergalactic techno opus 'Voyager', but strangely detached: a Wim Wenders angel with scant memory of his younger, more carnal self.
Currie's dry wit, effortless diversity and enduring fondness for pop's intoxicating bouquet are still here, tempered with a growing awareness of mortality. Plinking and humming like an emaciated Pet Shop Boys, he mocks his own rinky-dink karaoke tendencies but delivers even the cheesiest sentiments in a spectral Sinatra croon.
Age, infirmity and the passing of time are recurring motifs here, but don't slit those wrists just yet - it's all tastefully done and much funnier than Newman & Baddiel's 'serious' bits. The nearest he comes to his impish bodily obsessions of yore is in the discomfiting AIDS test drama 'Enlightenment', quietly pleading "Will you still be my baby when my guts are on the floor?'
Everything else has a voyeuristic isolation about it, whether ambling into ambient Robert Wyatt territory with 'Suicide Pact', dissecting empty romantic promises in the oddly soothing 'Rhetoric' or watching from space as his loved ones wither during 'Christmas On Earth'. Sublime.
Currie's voice swings from whimper to whisper while tunes either meander or pastiche. But he closes his bleakest album yet with the upbeat, schmaltzy 'Breathless', a gleeful plea for snatching happiness from the jaws impending gloom and the Christmas Number One we all deserve. (7)
Nick Currie's Momus alter ego inhabits a world of pimps and prostitutes. Although occasionally misogynistic in his power-games, his overtly heterosexual perv playmaking makes a refreshing change from the characteristic macho posturing favoured by many rock acts. His openness has attracted a strong gay following and Derek Jarman recently asked him to contribute a track, 'Cocksucking Lesbian Man', to his Blue.
These themes linger in Momus' latest work, which is written for a society where HIV has challenged attitudes towards sex. The mood and the music is darker than Momus' recent forays into low-rent disco. Here the rhythms pulse quietly in the background, leaving Currie's half-spoken vocals to loom larger than life. His voice is a wan, small whisper amplified into a scale at odds with its nature. The effect is surprisingly soothing, particularily on the star-gazing 'Christmas On Earth' and the chilling 'Landrover', where the keyboard melody fits like a glove around some typically bleak storytelling. 6 Steve Malins