The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Tuesday, July 02, 2002
Suicide is about caring about other people. It's about pride. Suicide is about caring what other people think. Only the "non-carers" go on living. So Doyle does not get run over by that big bus, splash squash. Lucky bastard. I did. He will continue to proceed and will go nowhere near the D to the S to the fucking S in Spindlehowe Road of old, some say Mount Pleasant.

Be like Ofili. Parcel up and meticulously wrap the dung. Exterminate the odour - it's the Borough of Shoreditch, right behind Texaco, no one will notice.

But those lights upstairs - Willow Walk for Me. More stained glass imposition than G&G with their 1977 should still be 1957 really Dirty Words - looking inside Kenneth Williams' hollow heart. They didn't want it to update. The Nat West Tower still half built. No weekend cops looking at dodgy wallahs taking pix on the Saturday prior to May Day. Leadenhall Market/Museum of London/Holborn Viaduct - an imagined trail which never existed, culminating in the proud corpsed gunner athwart the Prudential building, above Chancery Lane - there for chancers, Archer's Federation of Physical Culture.

Hegel did not plan Sophie Ellis-Bextor. But he allowed for her.

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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Look, I wanted art to dissuade me from doing it, not to encourage me.

OK, so you're in your dream now, and on the highway - but back to where? Or, like Mr Rob Dougan's alter ego in his song "I'm Not Driving Anymore," track 5 on this astonishing debut album of his called "Furious Angels," puts it, are you simply "a blind man driving my car into oblivion"?

There's no getting around it, this is a concept album about that temptation, and that temptation it is aye suicide. An album about terminating yourself. An album about asking others to terminate you, be terminated with you, terminate others on your behalf, the links between the big death and the little deaths. Love and death. Sex and Lucia.

In 1995 he did, and was, "Clubbed to Death," chilling out Elgar to the extent that Gerontius was reheated as foretold in "Penda's Fen." In 1998 he released the single "Furious Angels," the Clubbed to Death mix of which is the most flattening, demonic pop record of the '90s. It was not a hit, largely ignored due to the mistaken belief that the singer was a pseudonymous Chris Rea (and why should that be a minus point? See my upcoming "ageing and water" article for further exploration). The original mix appears on this similarly titled debut album; not quite as overpowering, but still an uncompromising beginning to what may be the bleakest and most sonorously expansive record since Walker's "Tilt."

Dougan's voice has more to it than Rea-heavy, however; an odd growling chanson of a voice, arriving at some interesting equations (Rea + an octave x Jacques Brel = Tom Waits).

And the orchestration! Involving up to 120 players at a time, and decorously handled by Nick Ingman and Wil Malone, this has to be the most ebulliently-ornamented record since Horn's heyday; the icing almost obliterating the intent (Macarthur Park!). I am reminded of what I hoped ACT would sound like (that great dying breath of the original ZTT "Snobbery and Decay" - go and dig it out NOW).

After the "End in a Line" atonal string sliding climax of "Furious Angels" comes "Will You Follow Me?" inspired openly by Lawrence of Arabia. The vast desert of love? And full of potential traitors, as evoked by the next vocal track "Left Me For Dead" where Dougan growls vengeance on someone who, er, left him to die. Brutal and bathetic. Then there's "I'm Not Driving Anymore" a plea to be left alone to get on and end his life, with the implicit thread that anyone who helps him will also perish ("I can't swerve to save your life 'cos then I'll lose control," "you keep keeping me alive to face another day" he screams). A "Kurayamino variation" of the original Clubbed to Death track follows, like a giant question mark. Then "There's Only Me" where he has designs on his potential beloved once her inconvenient current partner is out of the way, the orchestra leaping over hurdles, almost trying to keep up with him.

And if the two of them were left alone, what would there be? "Nothing At All" he explains in the next track, the backing sinking around him like a lung-filled Celine Dion exposed to Cathy Berberian. By the time of "Born Yesterday" he faces her with pure contempt. Why can't I just exist? Why do I have to say anything? Everything is free now -

"Speed Me Towards Death" is a suicide note set to music. No cop out. "I've decided it's life/That I don't like." "I'd die for some company." "I've realised that this world/At its best/Is just a prelude to the next/And it's not one I want to read/It's not one I want to hear." The orchestra howls in his ear, lycanthropically, about to choke the last bit of life out of him.

And then?

We're in a bar. The Elite Cafe in Unthank, perhaps? Duncan Thaw out the other end? "Drinking Song" a Tom Waits-style ballad which is essentially about how he, the musician, wants to hook you, the listener, with the perfect song so that he can "kiss you and weep" having bowed out.

Then track 13 "Pause." A minute's silence.

What is he thinking?

Second thoughts? Surely not?

But no, there's a coda "One And The Same." Over the greenest orchard of orchestration on the album, Dougan elects not to go. Heaven is just a step away, but for now we'll keep persevering, see out the next day. Perhaps a necessary ending - compare with the Streets' "Stay Positive"! - but significantly this is the only song whose lyrics are not printed in the 28-page booklet, filled otherwise with images of Mr Dougan's sculpture melting, burning and exploding, and the man himself in various stages of apprehension (looking almost like the young Welles on the cover! Is he winking?)

No doubt they will try to market Dougan as a male existentialist Dido. Will this sell in midsummer? Nothing here which Eminem could sample (even though his own worldview is equally as bleak, if not more so, in the song "Kim" turning thoughts into action - the logical conclusion of the train of thought "Furious Angels" starts?).

Album of the year, of course.

And where does all this leave me?

Wouldn't you like to know?

posted by Marcello Carlin Permalink
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