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

Sunday, March 30, 2003

It is the occasional privilege of the freelance worker that s/he can, if s/he so wants, or can afford it, simply not work for occasional periods, and instead enjoy the world a little more. So for the greater proportion of the week just gone, this is what I have been doing; enjoying and breathing music in the open air, and not feeling so great a need to write about it. Life has the capacity to get better still, of course, but that should not blind one to the truth that, given the correct circumstances, the simple indulgence in, and love of, life is both welcome and necessary.

So what do I think about d-d-don't don't stop the beat, the debut album by the Danish duo Junior Senior? It is a great summer album, to get the obvious out of the way - but then why turn your nose up at the obvious? Sometimes the obvious is obviously needed. It's also not quite what you would expect from the top three single "Move Your Feet" which admirably and artfully treads the tightrope to stay on the Chic/Daft Punk side of things when it could easily have fallen into the DJ Otzi safety net (holes specially customised). Note the triple assonance of the album title; the 1-2-3 signifier is of the highest importance in this record, possibly more so than on any pop record since Gloria Estefan's "1-2-3," on a par with Ted Rogers' 3-2-1 - the supreme inadvertent adoption of Foucaultian techniques on primetime TV. That triple percussive swing from the vocal chant into Chic heaven in "Move Your Feet" elevates the song into the divine.

Ze Records are written all over the album, of course - even the inset cover shot, with the two boogieing away madly in a decrepit office/back room/squat, completely lost in music, Junior squatting on Senior's shoulders, waving his arms so violently that he is causing the ceiling plaster to crumble (sparks - or, more accurately, Sparks - fly across the picture). Musically there is not much overlap with Kid Creole, but aesthetically they are certainly in the same medium-sized park. There is probably even less overlap with any notions of "House" - this is an album such as the Trashmen or the Ventures would have made in a different, more benificent age; guitar-driven, with much more in common with the White Stripes than with Cassius (and at this early stage it's definitely getting far more plays than Elephant).

The introductory track, "Go Junior, Go Senior" has an intentionally Super '70s synth intro (think Moroder's "Too Hot To Handle") and the general 1978 aura is heightened by the proclamation "We want to take you to outer space." The ghost of the Police is also invoked (listen to that descending "hu-man-race" in the second line) before breaking into an agreeable and punchy trot. Eventually choirs and harps intrude into the song and embrace it as Prince might have done. "Rhythm Bandits" with its introductory nod to "Surfin' Bird" is the Trashmen gone ska - an exhilarating ride. Then after "Move Your Feet" - whose real intent becomes far more apparent in this context than as a single - we get the irresistible "Chicks And Dicks" with its catch-all shout-outs ("Girls think I'm hard but I think they're mad!...Hey gay, get out of my way! Hey straight, you're always too late") which builds up again and again from its foundation handclaps to a determinedly shambolic rock-out, complete with the most out-of-tune harmonica playing since Shepp's "Blase," before a sudden stately string line enters the song and drags it to a yet higher dimension.

The comparison point of Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes has been made by several commentators. This record doesn't yet qualify for retro-ironic playlisting on Resonance FM, but it should be played there anyway. "Shake Your Coconuts" (another Kid Creole nod?) marries Stones riffing to B52s attitude and still manages to achieve the crucial laidback element. "Boy Meets Girl," my favourite track, is the closest Junior Senior get to Prince (think "Glam Slam" or indeed "Girls And Boys"), its cymbal-heavy drumbeat colliding with the psychedelic sitar. "C'mon" has a terrific surf guitar riff which somehow manages to mutate into "Mony Mony" and eventually Jim Morrison (the closing "Come on"s) - note the inspired lyric "I want to do you/And do you no harm." "Shake Me Baby" is a brilliant Monkees-style gallop of a teen ballad whose sly nods to Blood On The Tracks make it better than the collected works of Dylan. Profundity in bubblegum, as ever. "Dynamite" is another infectious Kim Fowley rush, though with lyrics like "Bombs! We've got bombs!" it might be an unwise choice for a follow-up single. Finally we have "White Trash" with its synthesised feedback which manages to out-Stripe the Stripes - "We wanna be like Nancy and Lee/We wanna sing like Kim and Mar-VIN/We wanna wear the same as Sonny and Cher/Show we've got balls like the NEW! YORK! DOLLS!" though, as with all great pop, uncertainty is always just perceptible - "Understand this: I understand nothing" (Sartre!). Eventually everything is overwhelmed by feedback and Junior Senior send the record into loop ("Go Junior! Go Senior!" etc.). A song-cycle every bit as purposeful and pointed as What's Going On. And, more than just incidentally, a terrific drunken party record.

Comparisons? One which might be useful would be with the still eminently listenable, if ludicrous, second album by my favourite Midlands grebos, Pop Will Eat Itself - This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This (1989). Released on the same day as the debut Stone Roses album, and played considerably more than the latter around these parts, it succeeds because it falls so short of the musical fusion it tries to achieve that it inadvertently creates something new. It's a record which could only have been made in 1989, of course; all these Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Spinderella references; the Osmonds/Lipps Inc sampling of the bleedin' obvious; the sci-fi schtick. And yet it's such fun to listen to - certainly more so than the more self-conscious We Are History of the likes of the Age of Chance. But of course the punctum is that, balanced against the gleeful naffness of "Def Con One" and "Wise Up Sucker" (both bearing killer riffs) and the definitive demolition of lazy JB sampling set against the man's then squalid reality ("Not Now James, We're Busy") are the considerably darker songs such as "Inject Me" which, ironically given its lyric of "I'm in a blur but I just can't feel my way," looks forward to the distended, dazed recent work of Blur, or indeed "The Fuses Have Been Lit" which quite startlingly predicts recent Massive Attack ("I got a little blue tube to give my views of a world in discord. My mind's unmoved") as well as the final drunken stupor towards oblivion of "Wake Up! Time To Die" ("I'm mumbling to myself/I'm stumbling for the top to decontaminate before it's too late"). Or indeed, the KLF/JAMMs of 1987: What The Fuck's Going On - two middle-aged Scotsmen trying to make a new sense/nuisance of the world. More about the latter on CoM soon.

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