Alternative Press
December, 1998
A string of dirty pearls from the mouth of pop's most cunning linguist...

The Little Red Songbook
(Le Grand Magistery)

Enthusiastically endorsed!

Marc Hawthorne

If it's true that the typical male thinks with his dick, then Momus (aka Nick Currie) is just acting like a normal guy. But for anyone who knows anything about Momus, it's obvious that there's nothing normal about this 38-year-old Scottish pop artiste. In addition to producing highly animated exotic / erotic electro-pop (termed "Analog Baroque" by the performer), Momus is witty, sly and articulate. If his brain really is located between his legs, then that unruly cock he's always talking about sure has one hell of an I.Q.

Momus is the kind of guy you inevitably find yourself cheering for and laughing with, but it'd be safe to say that if you found him with your sister or ex-girlfriend (or present girlfriend, for that matter), the joke wouldn't be funny anymore. "Old Friend, New Flame," the exquisite opening track on The Little Red Songbook, is a brilliant example of what this album's hero is capable of: Upon hearing of the beauty and the youth his friend's mate possesses, Momus pursues and nets the woman he describes in post-coital victory as "the unfaithful wretch." But even as he goes on to "thank" all the women he has laid ("Everyone I Have Ever Slept With") and compare his dick to John The Baptist and Moses ("Coming In A Girl's Mouth"), you still find yourself feeling sorry for the bastard when he ends up with chlamydia ("Miss X, An Ex-Lover").

It may not be clear how closely Currie resembles the guise under which he's been working for more than a decade, but one thing is for sure: Momus is going straight to hell, and he'll probably try to fuck everyone down there as well.

If you like this, check out:

The Red Krayola's "Hazel", Kahimi Karie's "Kahimi Karie", Sparks' "Kimono My House"

SonicNet Website
Too Sexy For Your Cat
December 2, 1998

The Little Red Songbook
(Le Grand Magistery)

"Old Friend, New Flame" finds the narrator silently stealing his friend's new lover through the adroit rearrangement of magnetic poetry on the fridge.

By Tony Fletcher

After 10 years of import-only releases to the U.S. market, the cult popularity of Momus in the States proves the validity of two seemingly well-worn cliches: first, that good things come to those who wait, and second, that if you keep doing what you do for long enough, fashion will eventually catch up with you.

OK, perhaps I made the second one up, but it seems especially applicable to Momus, a.k.a. 37-year-old Scotsman Nick Currie, who was dividing his time between Paris and Tokyo long before those cities became indie cultural meccas, and who has been writing vaguely danceable, provocatively intellectual and indisputably witty loungecore ditties full of name-dropping and sexual jealousy since before Beck or Alanis Morissette were out of their teens. After seeing his first-ever American release, Ping Pong, rewarded with top 20 college-album status and a sold-out tour last year, Momus has returned, armed with extra self- assurance, for one of his sharpest and most entertaining albums to date.

The Little Red Songbook is best examined as a concept. Its title is a tribute to the Danish sexual guide "The Little Red Schoolbook" (banned in Currie's native U.K. when he was a child), offering no illusions about the album's preferred lyrical topic. The cover picture of Momus in powdered wig, fingering a Moog synthesizer, is accompanied by the words "Please enjoy Analog Baroque," indicating a musical theme, too. If Currie's sudden fascination for vintage keyboards and sampling of Nintendo games for basslines seems surprisingly behind the bandwagon for someone who has spent so long in the wilderness of trendiness, then at least it's tempered by his decision to perform most songs on harpsichord -- in honor of baroque music -- and to keep them mostly under the two-minute mark to ensure that the lyrics are brief enough to qualify as "epigrams."

The outcome of such precise preparation is effortlessly entertaining. Certainly, there are few lyricists out there who can match Momus' sharp-witted repartee about sexual desire. "Old Friend, New Flame" finds the narrator silently stealing his friend's new lover through the adroit rearrangement of magnetic poetry on the fridge; "Born to be Adored" is self-explanatory, if only partially autobiographical; "Coming In A Girl's Mouth" lightheartedly debates the desires behind sexual domination; and "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With" is a hilarious take on ingratiating award acceptance speeches, inspired by artist Tracy Emin's "tent" art that named her real-life past lovers. (Momus names Emin, among other supposed conquests, before stating, "Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and from the heart of my bottom I know it must be rotten to provide the raw material for art.")

When not engaging his narrators in potentially malicious sexual pursuits, Momus turns his astute observational eye to the lives of those already more famous than he: "MC Escher" imagines the subliminal artist as a rapper; "Xxxxxx Xxxxxx" honors the musician behind "Xxxxxxx Xx Xxxx," now known thanks to genetic engineering as Xxxxx, and who Momus imagines travelling back through time to xxxxx xxx/xxxxxxx; "Who Is Mr. Jones" sympathizes with Bob Dylan constantly being asked to explain his own lyrical characters; and "The Symphonies of Beethoven" collects all the album's obsessions together by paying lyrical tribute to classical music, the Moog, Xxxxxx Xxxxxx and the soundtrack to "Xxxxxxxxx Xxxxxx." [Excisions for legal reasons].

There is a naive jollity to Momus' music that can appear over-pronounced on Songbook, the harpsichords and simple melodies sometimes suggesting that this is merely novelty, throwaway music for this would-be Oscar Wilde to drop his pithy witticisms upon. The decision to append 10 "karaoke" versions to the 16 vocal songs, with fans invited to send in their own self-sung lyrics in a competition to feature on the next Momus album, only furthers this notion of frivolity. But it would be foolish to dismiss the musical merits of an artist whose prolific nature and constant development suggests that he will still be entertaining -- and educating -- us in 10 or 20 years, long after current media darlings have been forgotten and buried.

CMJ Magazine
November 9, 1998
Must Hear: The Essential Releases Of The Week

The Little Red Songbook
(Le Grand Magistery)

With oral sex a regular part of the evening news, the world is ready for another Momus album. Scotsman Nick Currie's third domestic release, The Little Red Songbook, is his most explicit yet, making the Starr Report read like Highlights magazine in contrast.

Momus is a rare breed. He thinks with both his groin and his head; even the song titled "Coming In A Girl's Mouth" wonders about the "cultural significance" of such an act.

Currie has been recording since 1986, yet his witty jabs show no sign of softening. In addition to detailing his sexual escapades, Momus imagines MC Escher as a rapper, attempts a Bob Dylan impersonation and pays tribute to [excised for legal reasons].

Momus departs from the Pet Shop Boys-style synth pop found on his last album, Ping Pong, and instead invents what he calls "analog baroque", combining Moogs, drum machines and harpsichord.

More than just a man with a twisted sense of humor and a knack for hummable melodies, Momus is a keen cultural critic masquerading as a pop musician.
Wendy Mitchell

For fans of: Divine Comedy, Quasi, Magnetic Fields, Dangerous Liasons
Recommended Tracks: "Born To Be Adored", "The Symphonies Of Beethoven", "MC Escher"

The New Yorker
November, 1998
Live Preview

Mercury Lounge

He lists Rabelais and Martial among his songwriting influences (with a side of Matthew Barney and Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"), and his music - from Brecht to Beck on Moog and simulated harpsichord - is suitably challenging.

But live, draped on a chair and sporting a pirate eye patch, his obscurities coalesce and his sharp wit and smooth rap seduce.

His songs, by the way, are quite dirty, as might be expected of someone who goes in for the Decameron, too.

Other Music Website
The Little Red Songbook
(Le Grand Magistery)

The sublime Mr. Currie throws down an aimiable gauntlet, offering us sixteen of his latest ruminations, followed by karaoke versions of ten of them, along with a contest challenging all comers to create parodies of the lyrics, record them over the karaoke tracks, and send in the results.

The prize? 'The funniest, wittiest, and most beautiful parodies will be featured on the next Momus release.' And so what if the fine print makes you sign away all possibility of payment - 'Like Momus, you're doing this for fun, creativity and glory, not money!'

The idea of a worldwide corps of Momusites squirreled away in their bedsits, thesauruses at the ready, desperately attempting to out-weird the master, is too terrifying for us to contemplate for very long, so we'll conclude by saying that even if you confine all of your singing to the smallest room in the house, there's plenty of enjoyment to be gotten just from listening to this disc.

Another chapter in the ongoing history of a great pop music eccentric.

"Radio West 43rd Street: 10 favorites from our 1998 album-oriented playlist"

"The Little Red Songbook"
(Le Grand Magistery)

Though this record was recalled after the transsexual composer Xxxxx Xxxxxx (formerly Xxxxxx Xxxxxx of "Xxxxxxxx Xx Xxxx" fame) sued to have one of the songs removed, copies are still on the shelves. Typical of Momus (ne Nick Currie), a Scotsman who looks for beauty in our baser instincts, the song in question imagined Xxxxxx, his hero, travelling back in time to [...]. Momus songs are frenetic collisions of literary references, but you can't help paying attention because they're full of a highbrow prurience. The suprise is that he melds his influences (everything from Beethoven to Serge Gainsbourg) into something so smooth, smart, and listenable."

The other 9 selections:

"Car Wheels on A Gravel Road" Lucinda Williams (Mercury)
"Big Calm" Morcheeba (Sire)
"Hello Nasty" Beastie Boys (Grand Royal / Columbia)
"Mermaid Avenue" Billy Bragg & Wilco (Elektra)
"Noon Chill" Arto Lindsay (Bar None)
"The Best of Paolo Conte" Paolo Conte (Nonesuch)
"The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" Lauryn Hill (Ruffhouse / Columbia)
"Rufus Wainwright" Rufus Wainwright (DreamWorks)
"Mutations" Beck (Geffen)

(January 1999)

The Little Red Songbook
(Le Grand Magistery)

Out: October 13
File Under: Synthetic Goofiness
Recommended If You Like: Early They Might Be Giants, Moog Cookbook

Momus (ne Nicholas Currie) has always walked a fine line between clever and annoying, and this time he's ended up on the wrong side. The musical concept of The Little Red Songbook is "Analog Baroque". Problem: the British songwriter's best work usually swings from some grand intellectual joke, but ultimately turns out to have dramatic emotional depth under its facade of epater-le- bourgeois decadence. Here he goes for cleverness time after time, and never goes further. Some of his jokes are pretty funny the first time (e.g. MC Escher as "the impossible rapper".) But Mr. Currie is too busy zooming for the punch line to develop his lyrics any further, and when he starts a song "What is the cultural meaning of coming in a girl's mouth," you just want to slap the guy. The melodies also fall short: the only tunes that rank with his best here are a couple originally written for the Japanese singer Kahimi Karie, including "The Symphonies Of Beethoven," whose words -- the most fully realized here -- conflate A Clockwork Orange with its soundtrack. It shows that his gifts are still intact, but too often here he takes them for granted.


(Jan/Feb 1999)

"The Little Red Songbook"
(Le Grand Magistery: POB 611, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303)

Everyone's favorite synth-cabaret pop pervert seems to go more wildly over- the-top with each album. The Little Red Songbook has plenty to amuse and delight: lots of witty, misanthropic depravity in the tradition of worldly French provocateurs Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, paying homage to xxxxxxxxxxx composer Xxxxxx Xxxxxx and Bob Dylan and imagining artist MC Escher as a rap star. This time out, however, Momus pushes buttons with more crudity than subtlety, provoking more squirming than thought. When he ponders the "cultural meaning of coming in a girl's mouth" (and wonders whether his motivation might be just to "paint a funny milk mustache across her face") or steals a friend's new flame by spelling out "blow me" in magnetic letters on a refrigerator, these songs come across as uninspired leerings. Sometimes, The Little Red Songbook seems like the indie-rock companion to the Starr Report: perversion for perversion's sake. The special prosecutor had a legitamate case to make about presidential abuses, but lost public support with a referral loaded with embarrassing sexual salaciousness. Likewise, Momus is a wise, witty chronicler of love and lust, fame and infamy, history and the future, but by provoking with vulgarity rather than his mind, he takles taboo the easy way.


[Hmm... shouldn't that read 'The special prosecutor had no legitimate case to make about presidential abuses, and the president gained public support when people learned about his sexual salaciousness'?]

CD Now
(February 1999)

The Little Red Songbook

Nick Currie (a.k.a. Momus) is a high IQ cad, equal parts Oscar Wilde, Jacques Brel and self-proclaimed Don Juan. The listener is, of course, free to decide whether or not Currie is playing a role or gleefully hanging his obsessions next to the dirty laundry in his songs. But judging from THE LITTLE RED SONGBOOK, Momus' fourteenth album (but only the third released in the US), either method achieves a creative insight rare in today's pop.

As a cultural observer/critic, he is equally comfortable spouting anecdotes based on Dylan lyrics, spotting introverts at parties, or pontificating on the symbolism of oral sex. He's also a mean-spirited pervert (or plays one in songs), stealing lovers from his best friends and name-checking everyone he's ever slept with. He pulls it off with the wit and candor of a classicist like Randy Newman. Set to a baroque, synth-pop feel that, like his dry spoken voice, recalls retro lounges of the cheap suits and cheaper drinks variety, THE LITTLE RED SONGBOOK is filled with gems of pop philosophy. And in perfect Momus fashion, it comes with ten additional "Karaoke" versions, so you can start practicing being Momus too.

All Music Guide

The Little Red Songbook

The record that best defines Momus' self-described "analog baroque" phase, The Little Red Songbook plays up his longstanding obsession with Serge Gainsbourg's dark humor and lascivious persona, placing it in a bed of lilting, unpredictable, classically influenced melodies. The instrumentation is minimalist, usually employing only harpsichord, analog synth, bass sampled from a Nintendo GameBoy, and drum tracks from a cheap keyboard -- an odd blend of classicism and kitschy futurism.

The arrangements are often more layered than they sound at first, thanks to Momus' skill as a producer, but the resulting Vivaldi-meets-Kraftwerk sound still has an artificial, inorganic, low-budget feel. Not only is that intentional, but it perfectly fits the wry detachment of many of the album's tales of sexual manipulation; while some songs' observations are cultural rather than sexual, The Little Red Songbook is overall one of Momus' most explicitly vulgar records.

However, its bluntness doesn't mean that the concise lyrical vignettes aren't clever -- the list of "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With" turns into a rambling awards-show speech, and "Coming in a Girl's Mouth" spends most of its time pondering the symbolic meaning of the act, not just its physical realities. In fact, the subject matter's clash with Momus' "cultured" chamber-pop appropriations makes for a compelling tension. It's equally possible to hear this as sophisticated pop with a conscious affectation of elegant, high-class decadence, or as an intentionally trashy, dirty way of subverting the pomposity surrounding music and literature regarded as "high art," skillfully using its own forms against it.

Either way, it's unabashedly self-referential, morally dubious, and scathingly funny -- in other words, everything a great latter-day Momus album should be. The album ends with instrumental "karaoke versions" of nine of its songs, which were used in a record-your-own-Momus-parody contest (the winning entries appeared on Stars Forever). [Legal objections forced the removal of one of the album's songs; when The Little Red Songbook was reissued sans the offending track, there were three short new songs included as a substitute.]

Steve Huey