God reviews

OMG!Freak Emporium

The third album from this incredible singer songwriter (formerly a member of Sparks and the junk-shop glam band Jet) who has come to fruition in his late forties as a cult genius!! Like John Howard, Brett Smiley, Darryl Read, Simon Fisher Turner and Martin Newell, Gordon dwells on that eccentric English fringe of glam and vaudeville-infused singer songwriters, known only to a select few (but hopefully this will change soon) who mix high camp and surreal nonsense with the best melodies this side of McCartney (he covers ‘Too Many People’ here), Rundgren (like him he defers to the influence of Gilbert & Sullivan in rock’n’roll), Wilson and Bowie.

And for such an obscure artist of a certain age, the amount of press and airplay he has been (deservedly) getting is incredible. The lyrics touch on several subjects from cargo cults worshipping Prince Philip, cricket and Ghanian babies to fast food, fat people, gay smokers, and the apathy of God. Yes, we told you the bloke was a loon – which is why we like him. And if you wanted more proof. . .the first 250,000 copies contain an authenticated sliver of the True Cross. Whatever the f**k one of those is!!

Drew Shimon


OMG!Goldmine

A new album from Martin Gordon is always something to celebrate, but his latest, God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back) (Radiant Future – www.martingordon.de), might well be his finest yet. Many readers will know Gordon from his years with Sparks, Jet and Radio Stars; many, too, will already have thrilled to Baboon In The Basement and The Joy Of More Hogwash, the prolific songwriter’s last two albums. But God is something else entirely, 13 songs which include a soaring celebration of sporting heartache, “Bad Light Stops Play”; a cracking cover of Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People,” rearranged as a crunchy garage pop number; a punky rampage erected around Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Captain Of The Pinafore”; and “Gimme Food,” a deliciously detailed menu of so many munchies that your waist expands just listening to it.

Recorded with co-conspirators that include Swedish singer Pelle Almgren, and another former member of Jet (plus John’s Children, Jook and, for one week, the Who), drummer Chris Townson, God’s On His Lunchbreak is alternately catchy, sassy and incredibly well-detailed – precisely the kind of music, in fact, that Gordon has been making his entire career long. No wonder he once almost joined the Rolling Stones.

Dave Thompson


OMG!I94 Bar

If you lend any credence to the old adage that nobody likes a smart ass, then just call Martin Gordon public enemy #1, the former Sparks, Jet, and Radio Star member and Rolling Stones session dabbler extending the mordant, startling cavalcade of incandescent pop music he first foisted on a largely unsuspecting public with 2003’s “The Baboon In The Basement.” While it may be tempting for us mere mortals to wish a pox on Gordon, he’d probably just laugh it off anyway and reach into his pocket for another handful of pixie dust, like he does with “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back),” the final installment of his Mammal Trilogy (2004’s “The Joy of More Hogwash” representing the middle chapter) and another thaumaturgical convergence of cynicism, dulcet tones, and showboating. I really need to burn my thesaurus…

Gordon seems fully incapable of writing a song that is anything short of robust, cramming every available space with the torrent of lyrical and musical ideas cascading from his id, ego, superego and beyond, heady, swirling, sweeping masterpieces not too proud to wisecrack, nudge, and wink.

If there are any Sparks fans out there still in denial about the contributions Gordon made to the arrangement of “Kimono My House,” one listen to album opener “Fickle,” with tinkertoy piano flourishes right out of Ron Mael’s bag of tricks, should have the lot of you scrambling for the sanctity of a razor blade and a warm bath. All that’s missing is the oily hair, Hitler moustache, and pedophile countenance. Songs like “Here Comes The Family” and “A Portion Of Paradise” are, quite simply, what ears were attached to human heads for, impeccably built from the foundation up, no chinks in the armor, instantly imprinted on the frontal lobe and, aside from Todd Rundgren, 10cc, and Robyn Hitchcock, the type of otherworldly, necromantic pop you’re unlikely to find anywhere else on this mortal coil.

As with all Gordon ditties, the vibrancy of the hooks often causes one to overlook the fact that subject matter ranges from heart-blocking comestibles (“Gimme Food”) to Ghanaian crumb snatchers (“Miracle Baby”) to shattered hopes and dreams on the cricket pitch (“Bad Light Stops Play”). Make no mistakes about “The Captain of the Pinafore,” though. It’s just what you feared: a revved-up, fearless, and spirited rip through the Gilbert & Sullivan show tune.

Gordon has once again surrounded himself with Sweden’s finest, Pelle Almgren, on vocals, and ex-Jook Chris Townson keeping things steady from behind the drum kit, reigning in Gordon’s eclectic arrangements and scattergun melodies that buckle under their own weight. Assuming the guitar chair this time around is 23-year-old boy wonder Enrico Antico from a certain boot-shaped peninsula. Gordon fills in the blanks everywhere else.

As if it wasn’t already obvious, “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back)” clearly establishes Gordon as a god among insects, a fulsome treat dancing the devil’s razor between transcendent and too damn smart for its own good. Hedging his bets, he hints that his next project may involve heavy lifting equipment, earthmovers, and pile drivers. Somebody pass the petrol.


5 Beers – Clark F Paull


OMG!Radio North Angus FM

Absolutely awful – bad taste. Binned it.

Malcolm J B Finlayson


 

OMG!Power of Pop

Definitions of cultdom often collide with the implicit subtext that only slightly demented, bedroom-consigned lifetime failures can ever truly commune with their genius. Not so the output of “quintessentially English songwriter” Martin Gordon, who writes and records music with an appeal far broader than an audience comprised solely of those chosen last for the football team. There’s nothing anaemic or milksop about his music, which has the ingrained cheek and wistfulness of early 70s Kinks in spades, but also the playfulness of those great Sparks records of the period – some of which, indeed, he once played on.

Martin’s been round the block a few times. As well as Sparks, there were the Radio Stars, and he’s also shared a stage or recording studio with the Rolling Stones, George Michael and Kylie Minogue. This is his third solo release, following The Baboon In The Basement (2003) and The Joy Of More Hogwash (2004). Both were welcomed by critics, a trend that’s sure to continue with the current instalment, on which Gordon is joined by Swedish singer Pelle Almgren, drummer Chris Townson and guitar player Enrico Antico. It’s a good unit, and the results, going by old jazz writer Whitney Balliet’s metric, do indeed ‘swing’. The hooks are bold and the lyrics routinely amusing. Sonically, the density of the production is not unlike ELO stripped of the pretension and with far greater urgency.

Gordon doesn’t mind employing a little music hall camp when it suits, notably on the brassy ‘How Am I Doing So Far’. But throughout, he doesn’t attempt to restrain his love of bombast and neat little twists on orthodoxy. And why not? If you’re going to write an album addressing subjects as free-ranging as cricket (as an analogy to the fading of life’s light), Ghanaian babies, self-sanctioned meditations on the pleasures of junk food and the idea of Prince Philip as Godhead, it’s only fair you allow yourself the odd key change or two. But this isn’t a noodling session, it’s a pop record, and unapologetically so.

The lyrics veer between sarcasm and the salty delivery of unwelcome home truths, usually with the narrator as the butt of the humour. And while Gordon’s songs are knowing, they are never jaded or cynical. For example, the title-track sees him bemoan the fact that God is not pulling up any trees to help him out. But he does not dwell on the colossal injustice this is on both a personal and universal scale. He just reasons, well, fair enough. He’s probably just gone out for a snack or something. No need to make a fuss about it.

Other highlights? There’s a truly nutty version of ‘The Captain Of The Pinafore’ that’s pure pantomime, never mind Gilbert & Sullivan. ‘Here Comes The Family’ sounds like mid-period Stranglers. ‘Too Many People’ is the Paul McCartney number with David Bowie beaming in on backing vocals, while the album closer ‘Fags’ discusses the way in which gay people smoke cigarettes. Surely a much overlooked topic in popular culture. It also has a middle section that sounds like System Of A Down having a throwdown. After all, we can’t leave this pop lark to the kids. They don’t know the half of it.

Alex Ogg


OMG!Fufkin

Sometimes you can tell a lot about an artist by the songs he covers on an album. On his third solo effort, Martin (ex-Sparks, Jet, Radio Stars) Gordon tackles Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People” and Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Captain of the Pinafore”. And this, to some extent, encapsulates the Gordon approach to rock – witty lyric driven music with classic pop-rock structures and hooks, with a lot of showy flair. The heart of this album is pretty similar to the first two Gordon efforts, with shimmering and biting songs in the tradition of his Jet and Radio Stars material. It’s at the margins where this record really differentiates itself, and even that is fairly subtle. Much like George W. Bush, Gordon is staying the course, but unlike Dubya, he has a much better plan with which to work.

Fans of Gordon will instantly take to songs like “Miracle Baby”, a witty look at a modern day immaculate, or at least inexplicable, conception. Like many of the best Gordon songs, singer Pelle Almgren manages to sing the lyrics with a combination of serious engagement mixed with a wry amusement. The hook has a familiar see-sawing melody, making this sound almost like a nursery rhyme for adults. Of course, nursery rhymes don’t speculate that a “naughty vicar” might be the father, posit a Holy Ghost holding up a cheese sandwich “with the face of the Lord”, or have brilliant quatrains like: “maybe the geezer with the facial hair/sitting on a cloud in the air up there/had a finger in the pie if you know what I mean/now there’s an odd-toed ungulate living in her jeans.” At least none that I’ve ever read.

“How Am I Doing So Far” is another delight. Gordon’s new guitarist Enrico Antico takes a Dave Davies riff that must have been lurking in the closet and spiffs it up in fine power chord fashion. On this song, Gordon takes over the primary vocal chores. Well, not so much singing as acting the lyrics out, mumbling in a manner that is part Phil Daniels on Blur’s “Parklife” and the more current style of The Streets. This penetrating snapshot of the male psyche has a typically simple and effective sing-a-long hook (sing along with Almgren). Even better is the middle eight, with a sharp melody which leads into an economical solo by Antico that moves the song into the home stretch.

Musically, my favorite song is “Bad Light Stops Play”. This is a bit of slower song, and I find that when Gordon moves into this territory, his songs get more into the realm of The Beatles, The Move and Cheap Trick. And, as you may well imagine, this is an excellent place to be. Here, Almgren really gets to show off all the reasons he is such a great singer. In the verses, he is gentle and rangy. And then he is intent and sturdy in the choruses. The hook in the chorus is kind of neo-psychedelic, but not in an obvious way. Excellent stuff.
As fizzy as so much of this is, Gordon has a bit of H.L. Mencken/Randy Newman curmudgeon thing going on. Wait…did I say a bit? I meant a bushel. The latter half of the album really lets this side go. The final two songs, “The End of the Line” and “Fags”, are subject to misinterpretation, when they are examples of how to expose bigotry and stupidity by exaggerating it. On “The End of the Line”, the band plays whimsically, the music a variant on music hall and the sillier side of Harry Nilsson. The lyrics sound like the rant of some sloshed old coot at the end of the bar, complaining about how the world is going down the tubes and everyone else is to blame.

Meanwhile, “Fags” starts off with dreamy music before breaking into cacophony. Gordon simply rants while Antico shreds and Chris Townson bashes away on his drum kit. The song flits back and forth between these two sounds. To the sloppy listener, this may sound like the harangue of a homophobe, but it’s really just an ode to the horrors of cigarettes. Why can’t this be used by the American Cancer Society as a jingle?
My favorite of Gordon’s commentaries is “Gimme Food”. This is another typical Gordon power-popper. His bass playing gets things going, joined by some sweet playing from Antico. The light (or lite?) verses detail the insatiable need to have more and more food, and the chorus is well-arranged, with Almgren’s lead vocal supported by strong backing vocals (from Gordon and Almgren). This is how you build a hook, with both the melody and the arrangement. This song is a funny jape at consumer society in general.

While there is a tendency to demand that artists radically reinvent themselves on each album, there’s a lot to be said for perfecting a given style. I would say that of the three Gordon albums to date, my favorite is the second one (“The Joy Of More Hogwash”), but that really any of these will do in a pinch. I do hope that Gordon explores more of the music hall/musical direction that he hints at on some tracks (most obviously the Gilbert and Sullivan cover). He’ll always pen strong lyrics, so it’s just a matter of seeing if he wants to continue in this current rock direction, or maybe try something more ornate. I’m looking forward to whatever he does next.

Mike Bennett


OMG!Anchorage City Press

Ever witty and delightful, this third solo album from the power-pop wunderkid and former Sparks bassist is like a wonderful, lost Kinks album and everything Robbie Williams wishes he could be; featuring covers of Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People” and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Captain of the Pinafore.”

John M James / Yeah Yeah Yeah



OMG!Classic Rock

Like Brian Eno fronting 10cc at a cleverness convention, this third installment of eccentricity from the ex-Sparks sideman irritates and entrances equally.

Chris Roberts


OMG!Songbook

That Gordon played bass on the Sparks classic Kimono My House in 1974 might seem a slim recommendation for this solo album of 2005, but actually this quirky recording mixes the slick conceits of the Mael brothers with the more public bar nuttiness of John Otway, while in terms of musical arrangements it’s very 1974: crashing and clattering electric guitars, keyboards and drums underscore verbose vocals. The result calls out ‘cult classic’. Definitely one for those who go hunting for obscure talented ‘oddballs’.

Since the 70s Gordon has been working in session and production roles for more straight-laced acts (Rolling Stones, Kylie Minogue); it sounds like he is now unleashing twenty years of pent-up smartarse goofiness with his ‘Mammal Trilogy’, of which this is the third part. For all the idiosyncrasy, though, the search for reference points is quite easily satisfied. How about ‘a powerpop Here Come The Warm Jets’, or a mid-70s ‘Ogden’s Nutgone Flake’? In fact if you remember Gordon’s 70s bands Jet and Radio Stars, you’re already somewhere there. The album title helpfully encapsulates the style of humour. Like a good new wave album, God thrives on pace more than variety: a consistent mild freneticism carries through to the end in a rush that exhilarates if you’re in the right mood.

My fave track is ‘The Captain Of The Pinafore’, in which Gilbert and Sullivan’s light pomp becomes a three-minute flash of slapstick rock-drama. Would make a great hit single. Overall, good to hear 1974 still sounding fresh on a 2005 album, and good to hear eccentric wit that doesn’t sound too laboured or contrived.

Rychard Carrington


OMG!Uncut

Final part of Sparks man’s “Mammal Trilogy”. Mainstay of Kimono My House-era Sparks (although ‘let go’ because he kept trying to write songs), Jet (the mid-70’s glam version) and punk misfits Radio Stars, bassist/keyboardist Gordon returned to solo duty (after years spent playing for everyone from the Stones and Blur to Kylie) two years ago. His third album as himself exists in a curious time warp sounding freakily like, well, Sparks. Or Wings – McCartney’s “Too Many People” is covered. As is Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Captain Of The Pinafore” (really shouldn’t work, but does). Gordon isn’t lead vocalist – Pelle Almgren is – but somehow the bizarre brew of comedy philosophy, Beefheart-down-the-pub dynamics and pop consciousness works small wonders.

3 Stars out of 5. Chris Roberts


OMG!Amazon

If you lend any credence to the old adage that nobody likes a smart ass, then just call Martin Gordon public enemy #1, the former Sparks, Jet, and Radio Stars member and Rolling Stones session dabbler extending the mordant, startling cavalcade of incandescent pop music he first foisted on a largely unsuspecting public with 2003’s “The Baboon In The Basement.”

While it may be tempting for us mere mortals to wish a pox on Gordon, he’d probably just laugh it off anyway and reach into his pocket for another handful of pixie dust, like he does with “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back),” the final installment of his Mammal Trilogy (2004’s “The Joy of More Hogwash” representing the middle chapter) and another thaumaturgical convergence of cynicism, dulcet tones, and showboating. I really need to burn my thesaurus…

Gordon seems fully incapable of writing a song that is anything short of robust, cramming every available space with the torrent of lyrical and musical ideas cascading from his id, ego, superego and beyond, heady, swirling, sweeping masterpieces not too proud to wisecrack, nudge, and wink.

If there are any Sparks fans out there still in denial about the contributions Gordon made to the arrangement of “Kimono My House,” one listen to album opener “Fickle,” with tinkertoy piano flourishes right out of Ron Mael’s bag of tricks, should have the lot of you scrambling for the sanctity of a razor blade and a warm bath. All that’s missing is the oily hair, Hitler moustache, and paedophile countenance.

Songs like “Here Comes The Family” and “A Portion Of Paradise” are, quite simply, what ears were attached to human heads for, impeccably built from the foundation up, no chinks in the armor, instantly imprinted on the frontal lobe and, aside from Todd Rundgren, 10cc and Robyn Hitchcock, the type of otherworldly, necromantic pop you’re unlikely to find anywhere else on this mortal coil.

As with all Gordon ditties, the vibrancy of the hooks often causes one to overlook the fact that subject matter ranges from heart-blocking comestibles (“Gimme Food”) to Ghanaian crumb snatchers (“Miracle Baby”) to shattered hopes and dreams on the cricket pitch (“Bad Light Stops Play”). Make no mistakes about “The Captain of the Pinafore,” though. It’s just what you feared: a revved-up, spirited rip through the Gilbert & Sullivan show tune.

Gordon has once again surrounded himself with Sweden’s finest, Pelle Almgren, on vocals, and ex-Jook Chris Townson keeping things steady from behind the drum kit, reigning in Gordon’s eclectic arrangements and scattergun melodies that buckle under their own weight. Assuming the guitar chair this time around is 23-year-old boy wonder Enrico Antico from a certain boot-shaped peninsula. Gordon fills in the blanks everywhere else.

As if it wasn’t already obvious, “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back)” clearly establishes Gordon as a god among insects, a fulsome treat dancing the devil’s razor between transcendent and too damn smart for its own good. Hedging his bets, he hints that his next project may involve heavy lifting equipment, earthmovers, and pile drivers. Somebody pass the petrol.


Clark Paull


OMG!AllMusic

For his third album since finally breaking the 25 year semi-silence that followed the end of Radio Stars, Martin Gordon is clearly of the opinion that, if you have a successful formula, stick to it. And the fact that the only formula he adheres to is one of maniacal brilliance, all breakneck wordplay and punch-drunk powerpop, only confirms his rigidity.

Opening with the ”Whangdepootenwah”-esque freneticism of the opening ”Fickle”, positively the most psychotic love song since the heyday of the Smiths, God shamelessly blisters on through the magpie (Steptoe meets the Small Faces) magnificence of ”All Day Thinking” and a punky rampage through Gilbert & Sullivan, before dropping even the most stubborn jaw with the closing ”Fags”, a gorgeously heartfelt melody that suddenly transforms into a hardcore bellow, before winding down with the sound of coughing. Oh, those sort of fags.
Elsewhere, we embrace a soaring celebration of sporting heartache, “Bad Light Stops Play”; a cracking cover of Paul McCartney’s “Too Many People”, rearranged for a garage pop pantomime; and “Gimme Food”, a snack attack-flavored menu of so many munchies that your waist expands just listening to it. And much, much more.

Recorded with co-conspirators who include Swedish singer Pelle Almgren, and long-time collaborator Chris Townson, God’s On His Lunchbreak is a mercurial mélange, a crash course in everything that catchy, sassy and incredibly well-detailed rock-pop-lunacy should be. If there was such a genre, and we weren’t all such snobs, this would be the Modern Vaudeville album of the age, the natural successor to every Bonzos, Neil Innes and, yes, Radio Stars record you ever loved. But there isn’t and we are, so we’ll just remember this. If God really is on his lunchbreak, you know he has Martin Gordon in his i-Pod.

Dave Thompson


OMG!Fufkin

God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back) Companion Volume

Martin Gordon also has a book out about an album – in this case, his newest record. The God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back) Companion is a pamphlet sized book which prints all of the lyrics to Gordon’s original songs (and the Gilbert and Sullivan tune!). These are accompanied by essays telling the stories behind the songs, and terrific illustrations by drummer Chris Townson. Between Gordon’s witty writing and Townson’s pictures, there’s a kind of Monty Python aspect to the project. Which isn’t to say that Gordon doesn’t provide salient information about each song, but it’s hard not to read each of his entries on a song without laughing at least once.

My favorite passage is where he discusses sports metaphors in cricket (relating to the song “Bad Light Stops Play”), and a time when an announcer intoned, “Well, the bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey.” As Gordon helpfully explains: “It helps to know that, like most words in the English language, ‘willy’ is a slang word for the male member.” So what do ‘Martin’ and ‘Gordon’ really mean, hmm???

Of course, it’s unlikely that one would purchase the book unless one already owned the album. Well, I suggest you hop on over to martingordon.de, check out some soundclips, and consider getting both the album and the book.


Mike Bennett


OMG!Popular 1

Probably the name of Martin Gordon isn’t familiar to you. And perhaps, if I name Sparks, Jet or Radio Stars, few of you would know what I am speaking of. So, let’s avoid all introductions: Martin Gordon has recorded one of the best works of the last year. Published at the end of 2005, “God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back)” is one of those martian, unclassifiable albums that visit us without warning and with a smile in its lips. Because… how is it possible that a record like this can see light in the heat of 2005? Just take a look at the formula: mix the 70s eccentricity of Sparks with the English elegance of the most pompous Kinks and the Beatles filter of “Magical Mystery Tour” and… voilà! There you have it. “God’s On His Lunchbreak” is the third solo album of Gordon, legendary bassist, well-known producer and arranger/genius in shadow of that precious work of art that the Mael brothers baptized with the name of “Kimono My House”; a work plagued of delicious references, irresistible pop-rock harmonies and an acute sense of British humour that is a genuine exception in the times we’re living today.

A surrealistic piece of candy where songs like “Fickle”, “Bad Light Stops Play”, “The End Of The Line”, “All Day Thinking” or “Fags” shine with their own light next to cover versions of Gilbert & Sullivan (“Captain Of The Pinafore”) and Paul McCartney (an excellent “Too Many People”), giving body to a work destined to surprise everyone. Beyond the limits of reality, Martin Gordon and his band redefine the term ‘pop music for grown ups’ through a universe where multicoloured melodies, Monty Pythonian tales and sheer magic are the perfect passport to escape from the predictable. Yes, albums like this still are possible; so do yourself a favour: jump through the mirror of “God’s On His Lunchbreak” and meet an authentic wonder waiting to be discovered.

9 (out of 10) Alberto Diaz