Ping Pong Reviews
Read the American reviews here.
New Musical Express:
Ping Pong (Satyricon/CD/LP)
Nick Currie is a man who likes to wash the soiled laundry of his mind in public. Why else songs with subjects as tasteful and diverse as tossing off babies, sex crimes, bondage, Japanese schoolgirls and barely-suppressed misogyny?
Maybe because the concept of this, his tenth album, is to don the 'avatar mask' and explore the world through other personas, like some low-rent, garret-dwelling Robert De Niro. It's also apparently an album for 'futuristic vaudevillians'. But in a world full of Play Stations, Momus is struggling with a valve-operated, hand-held console.
And quite what is futuristic about minimalist waltzes, songs that sound like they were recorded with the cries of a virtual pet as the sole instrument, is as obscure as his lyrical subject matter is unsettling.
Occasionally, a little tinkle like 'Age Of Information', or the whispering funk of 'Professor Shaftenberg' will overcome this unwillingness to approach a tune, but generally this is as kitsch as a My Little Pony duvet cover, as arch as the entrance to most cathedrals, and several years too late for the so-called easy-listening explosion.
Sure, it's thought-provokingly ambiguous, but his continual look-mother-I'm-swearing-are-you-appalled-yet? attitude is, after a few songs, about as shocking as a mince pie, while his music is the sound of someone who wishes he was from France, where they encourage such self-indulgent opuses of drool and jism in the name of art.
'I'm amoral, provocative, confrontational and shameless," he tells us. Maybe, but with music this pedestrian, this is less like artistic probing into polymorphous perversity and more like voyeuristic titillation for the kind of people who like to buy used underwear. (2)
Bungalow / Setanta
The tenth studio album from sallow-cheeked Scot Nick "Momus" Currie sees him offering a Casio-toned version of Serge Gainsbourg-style risque poeticism. Songs about infanticide (His Majesty The Baby), schizophrenia (My Pervert Doppelganger) and, let's not be coy, paedophilia (Lolitapop Dollhouse)[sic] prove that Currie is as partial as ever to those subjects too emotive for most pop auteurs.
Still reliant on a half-spoken detached vocal style, Ping Pong is packed with 16 wan, wordy outpourings enlivened on the typical I Want You But I Don't Need You with cheesy organ, bedroom guitar and sleazy-as-Pigalle waltz-time signature.
At the other end of Momus' minimal sonic spectrum, the sardonic Shoesize Of The Angel is all Moog stylings and bubblesome disco bass.
Elsewhere there are lots of references to pop cultural ephemera, from Fender Jaguar guitars to multiplex cinemas, and to all things Japanese (he's allegedly big there), although it's the aura of obsequious immorality that pervades.
Momus returns alone and with a trance cocktail collaboration "dedicated to the spirit of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich". World saved.
Like all Momus albums, the tenth Momus album is unlike all Momus albums. The embarrassingly talented Nicholas Currie would not dream of repeating himself, unless given the opportunity to do so backwards - as he does quite remarkably on Shoesize Of The Angel, the near-exact inverse of his Hairstyle Of The Devil musically, lyrically and emotionally. A mere fraction of the good stuff here.
Currie's core creative premise, that his songs reflect the opinions of others rather than himself, allows him the same lyrical freedoms that produced Randy Newman's 'Rednecks', but Momus can't resist taking those freedoms to the limit. Thus Space Jews and the groove-laden Professor Shaftenberg ("sponsored by Lufthansa / to screw the pants off Japanese girls").
Similar grooves on Orgonon, Currie's Paris collaboration with the 21-year old half-Thai, half-French student who responded to his magazine ad for a "girl singer in the style of 1970s Italian soft porno films". Between her endearingly flat singing and Momus's lush sample-surging, one is pleasantly reminded of sweet perfumes, massive cleavages and, oddly, the music of Kevin Ayers And The Whole World.
Momus: the most underrated man in pop.
Time Out (includes colour photo)
Ping Pong (Setanta)
Just as you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone (Joni never lies), you don't know what you've not got until it's, er, there. Example: one listen to the nimble, funny lyricism on 'Ping Pong', and it becomes obvious just how insufferably dull most songwriters are. Noel Gallagher may have written 'there are many things that I would like to say to you but I don't know how,' but if he ever comes up with anything like 'I am toilet trained and elegant, an effervescent wit, but the girls prefer the company of a balding little pisser', as Momus himself does in 'His Majesty The Baby', then I'll eat my Walkman.
Similarly, Belle and Sebastian -- who've appropriated Momus's inability to sing and made it fashionable (bastards!) -- take pride in their well-drawn observations. But name me one B&S track based around a cyber pet's press officer who repeatedly declares: 'No interviews with Mr Tamagotchi today, we are dismayed by your attempts to invade his privacy.' You can't. There isn't one.
Of course, Momus is quite clearly mad. But he writes a scorching tune: 'Shoesize Of The Angel' updates his own 'Hairstyle Of The Devil', 'Anthem Of Shibuya' references ABBA's 'Winner Takes It All' and 'Lolitapop Dollhouse' sounds like the Magnetic Fields. Hurray!
'Ping Pong' is the tenth Momus album, and it's destined to sell poorly. Meanwhile, Momus himself may never achieve the success of his impersonators. How depressing.
Melody Maker (includes a photo captioned 'Momus: he's mad!')
"Orgonon" is a record which should be Album Of The Year on the strength of its lyrics alone. Check it out: "I was very concentrated / Like you are when you masturbate". That's from "Japanese Especially", a song which recounts the tale of our Laila -- a half-Thai / half-French fruitcake chanteuse and 1998's first leftfield sex symbol -- following a Japanese schoolgirl who lets her "panties fall down on the street".
It shouldn't come as an overwhelming surprise that Momus -- well known for his penchant for the perverse -- has a large hand in this project, producing and co-writing. It seems that he's now teaming up with similarly shameless cohorts to extend his world vision. The result is a magical mix, unsoiled by any discernible current trends, with the possible exception of lounge-core. Which doesn't count.
Between them, Momus and Laila France have conjured up a collection of classics. Laila's heavily accented vocals are sexily breathy and hesitant (a bit like that "Getting To Know You" advert for cable telephones) while Momus' backing veers between the jaunty madness of songs like "Trance Cocktail Airlines" to more downbeat weird-outs like "David Hamilton" and "Synthesiser Wizard", where our heroine has her drink spiked with acid by the keyboard player from a prog-rock band. Absolutely mad.
The driving concept behind "Orgonon" comes from one Wilhelm Reich, a scientist who believed he could harness the power of what he called the Orgone, a kind of earthbound ozone layer [sic] which energises anything -- including people -- when harnessed in one of his Orgone Accelerators [sic]. "By listening to this record", claim the liner notes, "you will be making an important contribution to the sum total of Orgasmortonic Orgone Energy in the world". Can there be a higher recommendation?
Momus, incidentally, has an album out of his own -- the often hilarious "Ping Pong". If the idea of Brel-esque tales of hating babies ("He suckles breasts the size of mountains / Then pisses freely on the women who so lovingly surround him") appeals to you this is your album. And the searing "I Want You, But I Don't Need You" is the most accurate and moving story of the age-old schism between girl and boy I think I've ever heard.