England - Full Moon 63 - 11/30/01
...and summer goes on till it starts snowing! Thanks to Modesty Blaise spreading heat with their
bliss pop of Melancholia winter stays away a bit longer. Let it be so. Even though this
album was released half a year ago it simply has to be mentioned. Because the Bristol outfit
have come up with one of this year's finest pop albums.
Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Collins (vocals, guitars, hammond organ, mellotron,
vibes, banjo, theremin, harpsichord, el. piano, perc) formed Modesty Blaise back in 1994. The
band has been through several line-ups, and they have also got a reputation as "the least
hard-working band in show-business". Anyway, the current team are: David W. Brown (bass), Gregory
Jones (guitars, french horn, groog [...?], vocals, perc), Clem Courtney (organ, el. piano, vibes,
moog, flute, vocals), and Julien Clapperton (drums, cymbals, perc). On Melancholia there
are also some 20 othe guests, contributing various wood, brass, strings and barbershop singing!
As a prelude comes Chorale - a swell harmony show, rinsing the air, telling us to put on
some pop-tan protection. It says: put your pop antennas in position for what's to come. It swirls
into Carol Mountain, and you're lost within its catchy breeze, its thrilling melody, and its
semi-witty lyrics: "I saw your husband - and he wears a
gun - you should've married me, now I'm the wealthy one". Melancholia (Three Humours)
is like a mild and gentle tide, with waves reaching, washing, tickling your toes as you're lying
straight out enjoying every bit of it. Another bouncing rubber ball of pop on side 1 (we're speaking
double ell-pee, right) is My Life Befoe You Came. An ode to the beloved? Between the
quicker songs you'll find quieter, more thoughtful moments, such as the charming Old Woman,
When We Come Of Age, and Even In My Darkest Hour. Then Beach Boy-like pop songs like
The Little Things You Do flash up, sliding into a peculiar ending entitled Gregory Fell
Into His French Horn. Side 4 of the album (the vinyl is limited to 1,000 copies, on yellow PVC)
holds alternate takes, versions and out-takes (such as Carol Mountain Full - the full version,
and Baroque & Roll - a short and different My Life Before You Came), which makes the
whole package a great voyage throughout the green and fertile gardens of Modesty Blaise. Other songs
to praise: We Are Love, on which the Blaise actually become Love, the band. Well, in
fact; side 3 is great! It's like a pop-love overture, where the songs melt and fade into each other:
From The Love Suite, via Swarm, to Sounds Like Love, into We Are Love, to
The Love-In, before finally ending with Chorale (reprise). X-L-N-t!! So good it hurts
really good. Mind-blowing, heart-throbbing stuff.
Melancholia is a fabulous album. If you're into the world of class pop, loving the likes of,
say, the most immediate and poppy Elephant 6 bands (Apples in Stereo, Minders, and also Olivia
Tremor Control's poppiest moments), with healthy sentimental glimpses back to the end of the 60's
pop harmonies (think bands on B...) and light, friendly psychedellic spice - don't hesitate! Get
Melancholia to find a cure for all winter tristesse.
PS! Another band close to the pop mentality and sensibility of Modesty Blaise is our very own the
Tables. On their forthcoming album, Treble Without A Cause, Jonny Collins has added his vocal
harmonies to a song called Butterfly. Watch out, hang on!
Copyright © 2001 Håvard Oppøyen