Norway - Full Moon 164 - 01/30/10
It's a label showdown!
Metronomicon Audio vs. Jester Records - Round 8
Täppas Strepens: The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow
(2002 Metronomicon Audio: MEAU.0008.CDR)
Bogus Blimp: cords. wires
(2000 Jester Records TRICK-008 - CD)
Welcome to round 8 in the label showdown series between Metronomicon Audio and Jester Records!
Since we've more or less totally missed out on reviewing the output of these two great labels, we are going
through their entire catalogues, matching the releases from each label consecutively against each other.
Humorously counting goals
and giving out yellow
and red cards, soccer style -
but first of all reviewing the music. For more introductory information on this label match, see
The Future Will Be Better Tomorrow is presented in the typical Metronomicon fashion - a CD-R packed
in a flexible plastic sleeve with a cardboard folder containing art & information.
The Bogus Blimp release comes in a jewel case and includes a folded insert with art, lyrics & info.
On The Future Will be Better Tomorrow Täppas Strepens plays all kinds of instruments
(except drums), and he also robs the kitchen of knives, forks, pots, pans and wine bottles. In addition he is helped out
by the everpresent Sissyfus, Håkon Larsen (drums & percussion), Thomas Meidell (guitar, piano, bass, etc.) and
Daniel Bakken (bass). In spite of the numerous instruments listed, the production is sparse, the tone is
mellow, leaving air for the songs to breathe in, and more importantly,
letting the (not printed) lyrics through. Though I really need a lyric sheet to fully focus on
lyrics when listening to music, it is safe to assume that Strepens' lyrics are not afterthoughs. Some are small stories,
reflections on situations and whereabouts, while others are more political in content.
In some ways, many of these songs have a certain camp-fire feeling to them, but
I am not sure if the camp is located in Texas or Ireland, as some songs have an Irish feeling to them, reminding
me of The Pogues on a sober and mellow Sunday ("Belly Up"), while others ring more of southern America ("The Primrose Path").
Whether belonging to one of these camps or not, some songs can sound anonymous, but are still fine little folksy tunes.
The first really stand-out track is "How Can I Resist Confusion?", which takes a slightly
more groove-based approach, with a fine combination of bloomy and cheesy keyboard sounds , while the guitar dives in
Radiohead-Creep-style, though totally without distortion and with a minimum of aggression.
Notable is also "The Devil is at Our Tails", sort of a low-key political folk anthem, with lyric lines like
"So bring on the third world war, it's not us and them anymore, it's us versus hate slash dot com",
though the singer sounds somewhat too tired and world-weary to make it seem very activist. Still, the message gets through,
and it is followed by the anti-war message of "Dustbuster", which slabs out against US foreign policy
("if this world's an ocean then americans are sharks"). I am sure republicans would call Täppas Strepens a socialist .
Next, both "Worthless Gold/Goal" and "... and the Magic Spun" are fine hummable tunes, with playful arrangements, making
the second part of the album seem more interesting than the first half. "We have Spaces to Fill" is just a half-minute psychedelic
interlude, before "Under the Mill" closes the album, although the chorus here also go "We have spaces to fill, under the mill, we have
spaces to fill, under the mill, we have hours to kill". The drunken choir singing here makes for a refreshing end to the album.
To sum it up: In spite of a handful of songs that are too similar in structure, this is a fine collection of low-key guitar-strumming folk songs
with socially aware lyrics.
The cosy and comfy production does not always match the songs' lyrical content, but
I have no problem saying this is overall the best album from Metronomicon Audio so far.
Over to the sophomore album from Bogus Blimp, cords. wires.
The short opening track "Hello World" consists mainly of radio noise, something they also used on
their fine debut Men-Mic. When this is followed by a
beeping phone on "Brothers of Space", this may feel like overdoing it a bit - like, is this Pink
Floyd for the MTV-generation?
And just as on their debut album, the opening narrative brings bad
news: "Brothers! I got a mission for you of the very most importance,
regarding the survival of the human race!". Well, it is more a conversation between the
President of the World, Robot Stooge and two brothers, and the compressed story develops like
a comic sci-fi plot, accompanied by some Hammond organ supported crooner. Cinematic indeed,
but very cartoon-like.
After this somewhat fun opening, things quickly get bleaker with "No Cords. No Wires", where the monologue
comes from a person seemingly in a psychic void, alienated from the world by its technology.
Track 4, "Marching To Rome", clocks in at 37 seconds and I am not able to hear any words, still
lyrics for the song is printed in the booklet, so I have to assume the words are completely buried in static.
Anyway, the music gets harder with "By Five O'Clock Tea", when the devil takes over the monologue,
and it gets harsher and noisier with "King Inst. King", where a man demands "to be king instead of the king",
and The Machine responds based on a brain scan. The process continues until The Machine fades to a grinding halt.
The man in the psychic void returns in "End Of The World", his utterings even bleaker this time:
"There's a man on the sidewalk.
He carries a sign.
But I do not care. I do not have any life.
I will shut up and go to hell.
This is the end of the world."
Things calm down with "Under The Sea", the song's lyrics on becoming numb once again makes it appropriate to
mention Pink Floyd, whose "Comfortably Numb" pretty much says the same, although Bogus Blimp are more gothic
about it. "Oxygen XX" is just a short instrumental, a calmly floating interlude, where once again there are lyrics
in the booklet but none to be heard. This reflective mode continues on "Sugar & Fear":
"sugar, coffee, cigarettes and fear ... tired and sad ... yet kind of happy",
but with "Making Room For God" this introspection goes awry, describing self-mutilation in order to please or reach God.
Naturally the music also intensifies, but without reaching the aggresive peaks from the first album.
After this, "Flight To The Future" feels partly healing. The flight destination is
"the world of plastics", but the musical crescendo rather indicates that the
controls are set for the heart of the sun ..., in the end everything seems to
be in trembling overload. The ending "Thing To Come" is of course no lullaby, but rather the last
human being playing a sad song on a saw while using his last breaths of oxygene on the lone spaceship while
watching the world sink into a black hole. The only question left to ask is: What on earth is
a saw doing on a spaceship? The answer is 42. Have a nice relaxed day.
To sum it up: What starts out like a cartoonish sci-fi rant, quickly develops into a
contemplative concept album where the lyrics centre around a wretched existence, and are more important than
the mostly mood-setting music, which can be described as a spooky, dust-filled, ambient-industrial cabaret.
Does it work? Well, cords. wires' sci-fi cartoon universe is infected by depression and
not particularly inviting. Musically Bogus Blimp re-use, or to be kinder, refine the ideas from the
debut album, but lyrically this album seems bipolar and incoherent in parts, which
is a good thing for nightmares ... but perhaps not for a concept album.
Match result: Metronomicon Audio 3 () - Jester Records 3 ()
Next head-to-head meeting is the Magnus MoriartyTM album Drive Fast Slow Right Left release from Metronomicon Audio which is up against the
When release Writercakebox (1983-1998) from Jester Records.
Copyright © 2010 Knut Tore Breivik