Pop Review
New York Times, Tuesday February 3, 1998

Misanthropic Sound Technician

By Ann Powers

The connection between humans and machines stimulates endless speculation. People anthropomorphise inanimate objects, naming cars and nursing viral computers. Scientists fill steel and plastic with artificial intelligence and wonder if those tools could someday spark their own life essence. Such questions resonate in popular music, born of the union between personal expression and electric instruments.

On Friday night at the Fez, the pop stylist Momus sang a song imagining the Tamagotchi toy, the popular computerised "pet", as a celebrity, and himself as the toy's press agent. The song presented Momus (born Nicholas Currie) in a role he relishes, as a translator of mechanical desires. This elusive English artist has made 10 albums inspired by synthetic music ranging from Muzak to hip-hop to the technopop of Soft Cell and the Pet Shop Boys. The preprogrammed blips and beats of his songs are as articulate as their lyrics.

But Momus is not just a sound technician; he is also a misanthropic wit in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis. The songs he performed on Friday, accompanied by Gilles Weinzaepflen (who offered a charming opening set in French) on keyboards, theremin and stylophone, chronicled human peevishness with a scathing emphasis on the sexual. Momus views sexuality as an impulse as mysterious and seemingly arbitrary as the patterns on a data chip.

"My Pervert Doppelganger" introduced a lover horrified by his salacious, secret self. In "The Homosexual", the undeniably effete Momus scoffed at macho men who derided him, explaining how seeming gay let him get close to women and seduce them. He railed against the one male type who could beat him at such come-ons in "His Majesty The Baby", a screed about how infants absorb female attention.

These funny and nearly shocking songs communicated a pathos that tempered their vindictiveness. Musically, they combined sweet keyboard and guitar lines with samples recalling a hand-organ, a rattle, a siren - random sounds made tuneful by careful juxtaposition. Momus presented his trenchant formulas for two hours, an easy task for him since most of his musical arrangements were prerecorded. If ever stranded in a world of pure gadgetry, Momus could undoubtedly find love among the machines.



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