Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Your list of top ten songs to self-destroy to is a decoy, too...

Fosca "Confused and Proud" [taken from the 2008 album The Painted Side of the Rocket on But Is It Art? Records - order the album here!]



Sorry I've been just as lax with updating this thing as ever. Still, to make up for it here's a review of a rather splended new album by Fosca, which you should all check out. Like...right now.

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There's a school of literary criticism which claims that a work of art is best interpreted without taking into account any biographical or canonical information whatsoever about its creator. This school of criticism has obviously never encountered Dickon Edwards. A self-confesed "dysfunctional dandy", his resum̩ since 1995 includes a brief stint in indiepop legends Spearmint, Romo pioneers Orlando (whose album Passive Soul remains an essential, if slightly embarrassing, addition to any Britpop fan's collection...if you can seek it out), as well as the official title of The First Blogger On The Internet Ever. Impressive stuff. His latest album with current band Fosca Рtheir third in eight years Рsees the band moving in far more openly pop territory than ever before, while Edwards continues to prove himself as someone for whom "being himself" is less a state of mind than a career path.

The album kicks off with the misanthropic Howard Devoto-isms of 'I’ve Agreed To Something I Shouldn’t Have', previously released on How Does It Feel To Be Loved's superlative The Kids at the Club compilation, and immediately shows off Fosca's unique brand of hyper-literate fop pop. 'It Only Matters to Those to Whom it Matters' ups the cutesy ante somewhat, with a singsong melody, barbed lyrics – "You always carry a book – not as something to read, but somewhere else to look..." – and the inevitable handclaps, that make it one of the catchiest cuts on the record. Still, that’s nothing compared with 'We See the World as Our Stunt Doubles', one of the best things Edwards has ever written; it sounds like Mansun rewriting a Bond theme – all sinister strings, chiming guitars and ringing glockenspiel – and ends with one of the greatest lines Morrissey never put his name to ("Why bother, why bother when life is elsewhere?").

The Painted Side of the Rocket is rife with extremely quotable bon mots, the best of which come from 'Kim', a curious tale of an obsessive pop fan who goes in search of his heroes, only to be confronted by "a churlish chap...who fronted some band in the mid 1990s" (a dig at Edwards' former Orlando cohort Tim Chipping, perhaps? - EDIT: apparently not.) and a journalist who claims to be a virgin "if alcoholic sex doesn’t count". It's the most relaxed cut on the album, and certainly one of the most lyrically interesting things in the already-erudite Fosca oeuvre.

The album's highlight comes with the dreamy 'Confused And Proud', a reworked version of a track originally released eight years ago as the b-side to the band's first single; an open letter to those unsure of their sexual identity ("If we held a protest demonstration," Edwards croons, "we’d all march off in different directions"), it sounds like Pet Shop Boys rewriting Pavement’s "Here"; Indeed, that song's opening lines – "I was dressed for success/But success, it never comes/And I'm the only one who laughs..." – seem as good a summary of Edwards' career as any. Far more ethereal than the original, its constant state of sonic flux perfectly suits the uncertainty of its subject matter, while its lyrics remain some of the most affecting and heartfelt that Edwards ever penned. The track is a masterpiece of bedroom balladry, the likes of which have been unheard since The Field Mice, and five of the finest minutes of music you’re likely to hear all year.

A couple of tracks seem to take the Fosca template somewhat by numbers , while Rachel Stevenson's sole lead vocal on the album, on the Kate Dornan-penned 'Evening Dress at 3pm' provides a little bit of light relief (especially following 'Confused...'), much like Hilarie Sidney's tracks with The Apples in Stereo. Still, by the end of 'Come Down From the Cross (Someone Else Needs the Wood)' – what a title! – you're left with few urges greater than to press play again and reemerse yourself into the psyche of one of England's greatest eccentrics, who just happens to have written one of the best pop albums of 2008. No need to be confused anymore, Dickon. Just proud. (8.5/10)

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So yes, if you know what's good for you, order this album quick march!