Embrace Your Inner Power-Pop Glam-Rock World-Music Freak
This is the least pretentious album I’ve heard this year, so it has to be one of the best. Martin Gordon, who has been in and around the music business for more than 30 years (Sparks, John’s Children, Jet, Radio Stars, Mira, session work with everyone from Blur to Boy George to Asha Bhosle to Kylie Minogue), has finally made his first solo album, and it’s great and fun and stooooopid and intelligent and everything that makes music good.
But that’s saying too much and raising your expectations. So I take it back. Let’s start over. It’s just hilariously rocking music with funny weird lyrics, it sounds great when you crank it up in the morning while making lunches for the kids, because they like it more than me even, and jump around madly and sing along with me.So it’s like bubble-gum glam rock, or maybe internationally-infected new wave, or something. Damn. This is gonna be harder than I thought.
Basic information: This is a small-band affair. It’s Gordon on the writing and the bass and keys and production work; Swedish singer Pelle Almgren; guitarist Andy Reimer (whose day-gig is with an Egyptian orchestra in Berlin), and drummer Chris Townson, who once subbed for the injured Keith Moon on an early ’70s Who tour. How they get such a big huge sound out of these four people is beyond me, but so is a lot of other stuff, so I’m not letting it bother me. But you can really feel every crashing chord, every cymbal crash, every snarl from Almgren, so let’s just say that Gordon is one of the ten greatest producers in the world and leave it at that.
My favorite thing about this record is the way all my favorite genres come together in a completely blatant way. Almgren has the ability to sound exactly like Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, so it would be stupid not to work that, and Gordon has no qualms about that. In “Hit Him on the Head With a Hammer”, he builds the song around a tough Rick Nielson riff, some serious Bun E. Carlos drums, and lets Almgren sigh/sing lines like “His wife had left him / A long time agoooooooooo / ‘Cause he carried on so-oo-oo-oo,” and it just sounds all rather crunchy and perfect and lovely. The fact that the song goes on to describe how the wife beats her husband to death with a hammer, with a spanner, in a positive manner . . . well, that’s all gravy on the cake. Or something.
We get a lot of weird treats here. The next tune, “Only One Dream Per Person”, describes Gordon’s adopted home of Germany and its structured society: “Take this queue for a better life / Step on up for a thinner wife / Your wish is of course our command / Just stand in line / This row is only for Aryans / This one is just vegetarians / Observe the customs / When doubtful just follow the sign.” This might be all pants, but it’s not, because it’s done in a lovely 6/8 doo-wop waltz with a rollicking piano and some guitar/synth power chords straight out of Berlin (the group, not the city . . . but it IS out of the city, so I guess both) and some tasty jazz drumwork from Townson.
You might be getting the sense that Gordon has a weirdo sense of humor, but that would be understating the case. The man is freakin’ bizarre. He’s got a song here called “Terrible Mess (No-Good Shoebomber)”, which is exactly the song T.Rex would have done about the dude who tried (and failed) to light his explosive footwear on the jet from Paris. This song typifies Gordon’s skewed perspective on the world — he’s not especially angry at the hapless would-be terrorist, exactly, but instead finds him just incredibly stupid: “I got nothin’ to lose, mama / Except for my shoes, mama / They saw through my ruse, mama / And now I can’t find the fuse, mama.” Gordon paints our protagonist as a misguided fool who can’t even do the incredibly moronic and evil thing he was going to do, making him into more of an Everyman than we might be comfortable with . . . but he does so in such a great song (everyone chants the chorus together, just like on the early Peter Gabriel records, before Gabriel looked like my wife’s Uncle Alan) that it doesn’t matter.
Gordon wears his influences like badges or scars or novelty hats, which is always a good thing in a bandleader. He covers the Stones’ “We Love You” and makes it sound like Primal Scream (he gigged with the ‘Scream, too), T.Rex’s “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” (Marc Bolan’s first band? John’s Children!), and the Move’s “Tonight” (not sure of the connection here, but it’s just dope as hell, with a Bo Diddley scronch on the chorus and some beautiful echo effects). He’s not shy about using other people’s ideas on his own songs, either: the chorus hook on “It’s Like It’s Like” is lifted from that ’70s drug song that goes “That ain’t no way to have fun,” and just because I can’t remember the title doesn’t mean I’m lying. But that theft doesn’t detract from “It’s Like It’s Like” at all, because no one’s pretending to any great originality here: just a fun pop song about how his girlfriend can’t stay on one conversational topic for more than 10 seconds.
But then there are things that no one has any idea where they’re from. The title track is a big ol’ surreal world-music jam session about, well, about a baboon being in one’s basement, or perhaps on the stairs, or maybe right over there. If this was a different record, I might think that it’s some metaphor for the hidden id, how we can’t cover our animal instincts with the watered-down veneer of society forever. But it’s not a different record, it’s this one, and I’m convinced that they just thought “Hey what would sound good here in the middle of this tribal Bow Wow Wow / Adrian Belew workout? Oh yeah some chanted words about a damned baboon!” All I care about is that my kids think this is the funnest dance song ever. And they’re never wrong.
(And yeah, this “girls are crazy” theme pops up on too many songs, which makes me wonder about Gordon’s . And yeah, Gordon never met the easy chord progression he didn’t love. And yeah, songs like “Greenfinger” and “She’s So Pleasant Today” and “Good Girls Gone Bad” are completely disposable . . . but I’m thinking this is a good thing so ignore this one.) (All these things are true but who cares, it’s fun, it’s summer, turn it up, rock out, have a Coke with something in it or not, pull the stick out of your butt, “serious music” is overrated by a factor of 1.5 million.)
(Oh crap I forgot to talk about “Anyway Goodbye,” the best kiss-off song in history where dude tells his ex to “Please don’t take good care of yourself / Don’t be concerned about the state of your health” and warns her against meditation and financial prudence. Oh well).
Okay, look, it’s like this: all that Important Stuff is good and all, but sometimes you need some junk food, and this is like junk food except it’s probably twice as smart as any other record coming out this year, and just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it’s not good for you too, but this really isn’t all that good for you, except for the part of you that needs to have fun. So listen to it and love it and smile and play some air guitar while you’re at it. Because this really is one of the best albums of the year. Matt Cibula
It’s tempting to try to fashion some sort of cheesy pun out of the name of Martin Gordon’s record label, but the guy’s been around far too long to be afforded the type of newcomer status for which the words “radiant future” are usually reserved. Fair enough. Gordon played bass on and provided most of the arrangements on Sparks’ brilliant “Kimono My House” (1974), one of the albums that relieved some of the suffocating boredom yours truly endured during high school in Detroit as well as one that was universally loathed by everybody I ever played it for. Gordon bid the Mael brothers a not-so-fond “adieu” after discovering the dynamic within the band to be a little less democratic than he was originally led to believe. Being asked to use a Fender bass during live rehearsals instead of his customary Rickenbacker also stuck in his craw. Flaunting said four-string on “Kimono’s” back cover probably didn’t help smooth things out either.
After leaving Sparks, Gordon formed the short-lived glam supergroup Jet, whose only album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker. Jet later morphed into Radio Stars, a group mistakenly lumped in with the British punk/new wave scene, probably on the basis of their single “Dirty Pictures,” which I still have on 7-inch vinyl somewhere. After two years, two albums, and what must have seemed like interminable touring, Gordon split for Paris, where he found gainful employment as house producer with Barclay Records and sat in with the Stones a few times while their bass player (what was his name again?) went out for a fag, uh, cigarette. Since then, Gordon hasn’t been sitting around on his ass – he’s provided keyboard, programming, producing, co-writing, and arranging services for the likes of Kylie Minogue, George Michael, Boy George, Blur, Primal Scream, and Robert Palmer (among others) – as well as handling the bass chores for John’s Children on their yearly retirement gigs. Showoff…
The Baboon In The Basement is Gordon’s first solo album and, quite frankly, may be the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. Sonically, its very essence is unmistakably pommy, recalling an era of pre-marketing age innocence (read 1970’s). At the risk of starting a chicken/egg argument, it’s immediately apparent that Gordon traffics in the same skewed pop smarts and wiseguy wordplay his old employers in Sparks are famous for. Like “Hit Him On The Head (With A Hammer).” Not long after snarling feedback from the guitar of Andy Reimer kicks this one off, you’re singing along with the chorus. By then it’s too late – you’ve bought into Gordon’s twisted vision. The guitar sound Gordon (yep, he produces too!) coaxes out of Reimer is enough to send you scrambling to locate your old T. Rex albums, the scrunchy power chords which intro album opener “It’s Like It’s Like” exhibiting instant heroic appeal to those of us old enough to remember when downtuning wasn’t all the rage.
Although it’s Gordon’s name on the cover of this disc, apparently he’s remembered the lesson he learned when rubbing elbows with the Maels in that he’s only too glad to share the glory on “The Baboon In The Basement” and let’s face it – there’s plenty to go around. Pelle Almgren’s vocals are a real treat, sort of a robust mixture of Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Squeeze’s Chris Difford, inviting a sing-along on most every song and never overextending his reach. He even makes a song about ending a relationship (“Anyway Goodbye”) sound like a reason for celebration. Gordon’s running mate in John’s Children, drummer Chris Townson, proves himself more than capable of handling most anything Gordon throws at him in the way of arrangements. Filling in for Keith Moon (who’d injured himself throwing his drums around onstage) on the last four dates of a Who tour in 1967 was apparently not a bad trial by fire.
In the end, though, it’s Gordon’s huge talent as writer, arranger, producer, bassist, keyboardist, backing vocalist, and programmer which provide the slab on which “The Baboon In The Basement” is built. Rumors about him cleaning ashtrays in the studio are thus far unfounded…
Other than three covers (the Stones’ “We Love You,” Marc Bolan’s “Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles,” and Roy Wood’s “Tonight”), he wrote all of the songs here and at the risk of appearing starstruck, just thinking about the craft that went into combining a wry sense of humor with hooks that stick immediately makes my head spin.”Why Do I” and “Greenfinger” in particular are disturbingly catchy, both sprinkled with a liberal coating of Gordon’s production fairy dust. Barflies looking for fuck-me riffs and fuck-you swagger may do well to look elsewhere. I say man does not live by Stooges/Radio Birdman/MC5 rock action alone (complaint letters should be sent to The Barman). At the end of the day, there’s something (hell, a lot!) to be said for a guy like Martin Gordon and his vision of a world filled with spirited campfire songs which mix pop goo with glam swirl (shaken, not stirred), not the least of which may include the word “genius.” Live with it… (Awarded): 5 beers Clark F Paull
Gordon wrote buzzing hooky and witty rock songs while spearheading the bands Jet and Radio Stars. Over 20 years ago. Not since Captain America was thawed from an ice flow has a man been able to come back so strong after a long layoff (NOTE: Gordon made lots of other music in various roles, just not in this basic rock format). If anything, Gordon may be better than ever. This is the most consistent effort the former Sparks bassist has ever released. Working with a crack band including brilliant Swedish singer Pelle Almgren and former John’s Children drummer Chris Townson, Gordon skewers Germans, shoe bombers, girlfriends, tightwads and others, while nailing excellent covers of T. Rex, The Rolling Stones and The Move. Number 20 in Fufkin Top 20 of 2003 Mike Bennet
I’ve always loved lists, except for shopping lists and “honey do” lists, so with 2003 drawing to a quick close, I figured a “best of” list would be in order, to wit (in no particular order after #1):
#1: “The Baboon In The Basement/ Martin Gordon
Gordon came out of leftfield (well, actually Berlin) with this one, the ex-Sparks/Radio Stars bassist, writer, arranger, and genius-in-residence unleashing a canny masterpiece of 70s-channeled starbursts, chock-a-block full of hooks, melody, and smart-ass lyrics. Forget all you’ve read and heard about the creative powers of Ron and Russell Mael – Gordon arranged most of ‘Kimono My House’. Call him a ‘show-off, but I say if you got it, flaunt it. After several months and about 100 spins, the bloom’s still on the rose for me on this one. As if his unending reservoir of talent isn’t enough, the guy’s a sweetheart to boot, even taking time to shoot the breeze with me despite possibly being mildly offended (I hope I’m wrong!) by my naive use of the word ‘pommy’ in a review of the album. Heaven awaits in your CD tray. Cheers, Martin!
Best Of 2003 In Music, Books, and DVD December 2003 RECORD OF THE YEAR Clark F. Paull III
A ‘paradigm of perfect pop’ as they said at the time- and they were right, whoever they were. Gordon, who was the first UK bassist in Sparks, who founded pop-punk legends the Radio Stars, and whose career has often seemed on the fringe of existence like he were some Romantic legend, has to date released three albums of excellent burlesque glam-prog-pop parody, and this was the first, winning universal acclaim and not without good reason either. Recorded in Berlin where he now resides, and featuring the talents of the not-unlike Russell Mael vocalist Pelle Almgren, this was the most refreshing sound that any of us had clapped ears on for ages, and we really think you should too. Star tracks are ‘Hit Him On The Head With A Hammer’ and ‘Good Girls Gone Bad’, but the inspired covers of Stones, T Rex and Move material also kick some serious bottom. Whether he will gain the acceptance he deserves is another matter, but Martin tells us his wife has been known to call him a cult. . . Drew Shimon
Hands-down the most entertaining album I’ve heard yet this year. Martin Gordon is a name that I should’ve recognized. He was the bassist/arranger of the lineup of Sparks that resulted in their defining moment, Kimono My House (1974), only to be fired as the album topped the UK charts. He later went on to join glam rockers Jet as bassist/songwriter/arranger, a group he formed with ex-John’s Children vocalist Andy Ellison, Nice/first Roxy guitarist Davy O’List, and drummer Chris Townson (the only drummer ever to sub for Moony in the Who). That group evolved into Radio Stars, who are still more or less together (despite their penchant for self-destructive antics and dying-to-be-banned lyrics). He auditioned for Wyman’s slot in the Stones and played with a bewildering range of chart stars from Kylie Minogue and Primal Scream to Robert Palmer and George Michael.
This, his solo debut, is an absolutely brilliant melange of pop and glam-rock songs, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, arrangements to rival Rundgren or 10cc, and a band of top-notch players. The lead singer is an ace Swedish power pop guy named Pelle Almgren. On drums is the great Chris Townson, and on guitar a Berliner (the city where Gordon now resides) called Alan Reimer, who turns out to be a real find. Gordon wrote the songs, arranged, produced, and played bass.
How to describe the sound? ‘The best Cheap Trick album since 1980 would be apt, since this sounds for all the world like top-notch Rick Neilson material sung by Robin Zander, with touches of the poppier side of Bowie and the Spiders, Roxy, T. Rex, and Slade. Almost everything is immediately accessible, and improves dramatically with repeated spins.
Lyrically, it’s wickedly smart and funny, with subject matter touching on the woeful tale of the inept, misguided shoebomber (“Terrible Mess”) and what heaven would be like if the Germans ran it (“Only One Dream Per Person”), along with a number of skewed takes on relationships (“Hit Him on the Head (With A Hammer),” “Anyway, Goodbye”). Man, I hope this band can go on the road in the States! Highly recommended, as is Gordon’s website, which has some terrific self-effacing stories of his years in the rock wars at www.martingordon.de. Kent H. Benjamin
Bassist / keyboardist Martin Gordon boasts a resume that could easily extend across several rock’n’ roll lifetimes. He served as a key member of the band Sparks (it was he who helped supply the rhythmic underbelly and a good portion of the arrangements for the Mael Brothers’ landmark Kimono My House and its resulting monster hit “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”), a member of the short-lived but critically fawned-over Brit-rock band Jet, a founder of the group Radio Stars, a participant in the reformed mod outfit John’s Children, and an active session player whose clients have included no less personages than the Rolling Stones, Blur, Boy George, George Michael, Kylie Minogue, Robert Palmer, Primal Scream; whew, we could occupy an entire essay simply listing Gordon’s credits. Perhaps what’s most amazing is that he hasn’t recorded a solo effort until now. Fortunately, The Baboon in the Basement (Radiant Future RFVPOO5CD) is well worth the wait, a vibrant, bigger-than-life endeavor that reflects all his English eccentricity and ability to turn a catchy phrase and ringing refrain.
Covers of the Move, the Stones and T-Rex provide a natural fit; big, brash and boisterous, it’s emboldened with enough hooks to arm an entire fleet of fishing vessels.Lessons learned early on surge to the surface here, with pointed lyrical barbs and a veritable overflow of irony and off-kilter observations.”Now I’ve had about as much as I can take / It’s the final step we’re ever gonna make / Please don’t take good care of yourself/ And don’t be concerned about the state of your healthÖ ” he suggests in “Anyway Goodbye,” one of the many over-the-top anthems here and about as bitter a break-up song as any ever fashioned. No matter; with melodies as effusive as these, the kiss-off couldn’t be more inviting. Lee Zimmerman
The Baboon In The Basement is as good as anything he’s ever done. Crackling pop cast firmly in what long-term listeners will instantly recognize as the classic Gordon mould. His characteristically wryly wired lyrics are nailed to more sparkling melodies than one album has a right to, awash with crunchy choruses and pointed hooks, and addressing everything from garrulous girlfriends (“It’s Like It’s Like”) to wannabe terrorists (“Terrible Mess”), from domestic abuse (“Hit Him On The Head (With A Hammer)” to spider-monkeys in the cellar (“Baboon In The Basement”). It’s an absolute triumph. Dave Thompson
After his brief tenure in Sparks (with his strong contributions on their breakthrough Kimono My House album), bass player extraordinaire Martin Gordon established himself as one hell of a songwriter. Working with former John’s Children alums Andy Ellison (vocals) and Chris Townson (drums), Gordon penned sophisticated glam rock (a la his former band and Roxy Music) for the one-album-only Jet and punchy, sarcastic rock’n’roll for Radio Stars. Gordon lyrics are witty and memorable and he has an innate talent for creating big hooky choruses.
Since Radio Stars demise, he has devoted most of his energies to working with other artists, only sporadically venturing into his own projects. So this solo disc is long overdue. Thankfully, time has only strengthened Gordon’s songwriting chops. There are a few songs that sound like they could have been Radio Stars songs (in some cases, because they were originally penned for Radio Stars; in all cases, because this is the guy who wrote Radio Stars’s songs — duh!), and other songs that would sound as contemporary during the heyday of Jet as they do put against bands like Pulp or The New Pornographers today.
Gordon’s songs generally have spunk aplenty, combined with sharp lyrics that alternate among spheres of keen observation, Menckenesque misanthropy and giddy silliness. What is particularly impressive is that Gordon avoids the trap of many traversing the smart and, dare I say it, clever path, in that he writes lyrics that flow with, rather than constrict, the music. More importantly, he fleshes out his concepts, so songs aren’t just a joke repeated for four minutes till fade out.
Gordon and his band (which, in addition to Townson includes guitarist Andy Reimer and vocalist Pelle Almgren) take you to a funhouse world where Germans run Heaven somewhat like the Department of Motor Vehicles, though with more efficiency, a woman is told to hit her lover on the head with a hammer (hey, Captain Beefheart has already noted that “nowadays a woman’s gotta hit a man to make him understand.”), and Richard Reid’s reaction when he’s unable to light his shoe bomb is that he’s “in a terrible mess.” It’s also a world where the cover tunes are uniformly terrific. The versions of T. Rex’s Unicorn track “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” and The Rolling Stones “We Love You” (which has a bit of a trippy psych-dance vibe) are swell, but the version of the latter day Move classic “Tonight” is superb. It’s not a case of some daring rearrangement. It’s just a case of the musicians nailing the song. In particular, kudos must go out to Almgren. He is a great singer, with a voice that effortlessly handles whatever material Gordon gives him. Almgren reminds me a bit of Sweet’s Brian Connolly, another singer who never seemed to strain and had a deceptive power, though they don’t sound much alike. “Tonight” is one of many effective showcases for Almgren’s talent, as he immediately engages with the material.
Almgren does a great job selling (sort of pun intended) material like “Let’s Make Money”, which could be used at George W. Bush fundraising stops. The song is a sly put down of materialism, with a nice Bo Diddley variation rhythm, and Gordon’s purported first recorded bass solo. Then there’s the painfully funny “Green Finger”. The protagonist buys his sweetheart a cheap faux gold ring. She’s allergic to the fake stuff. Uh oh. This is a rollicking number that is reminiscent of Wreckless Eric at his best, with percolating pub rock leavened by gentle humor.
The title track is a showcase for Reimer. He gets to show off, with an array of licks that make him a suitable substitute for Adrian Belew. And this isn’t wanky showing off. The oddball guitar parts weave in well with the tribal percussion. While no other number delves into this musical style, “Baboon” is characteristic of the electricity and energy throughout the disc. Whether it’s the musical drama of “She’s So Pleasant”, which has a sweeping chorus that will please fans of early Duran Duran (admit it, they wrote some good tunes back in the day), the rollicking riff-fueled pop-rock of lead cut “It’s Like It’s Like…”, which has a nifty middle eight in the vein of The Move, or the build up of the complete “Anyway Goodbye” — it has tension building verses, a sing-a-long chorus, and provides a primer on how to live a short life: “don’t check regularly the state of your health/spending money improves your wealth/don’t take vitamins and don’t do sport/keep off yoga and stay overwrought.” Slow suicide has never been so fun!
Even though this album is defined by these dynamic tracks, the best song may be the slow and elegant “Only One Dream Per Person”. As referenced above, this is Gordon’s view of what Heaven would be like if run by Germans, though it is equally applicable to corporate society. The song proceeds at a languid pace with a drawn out melody which provides the proper atmosphere for the condescending lyrics: “Your wish is, of course, is our command/just stand in line/that row is only for Aryans/this is just vegetarians/observe the customs/when doubtful, just follow the sign.” This is one of those songs, like Randy Newman’s “Sail Away”, that takes a premise that could be tacky or tasteless, and through surgically precise lyrics, turns out funny and thoughtful.
This album is a testament to Gordon’s talent, both as a songwriter and as a band leader. This is as good as anything he has ever done. In fact, I think that he has really perfected his ability to make his inventive ideas for song topics come to fruition. So let’s hope Gordon finds some more baboons soon. Mike Bennett
Martin Gordon var en gång i tiden basist i legendariska 70-talsbandet Sparks, och medverkade på deras klassiker Kimono My House.
Sedan dess har han haft egna band som Jet och Radio Stars och producerat allehanda artister. Han spelade också med Rolling Stones på en del av deras sessions för Some Girls. Men först nu har Gordon släppt ett soloalbum, The Baboon In The Basement (Border). Det finns också en Sverigekoppling. Sångare på albumet är Pelle Almgren. Skivan innehåller uppfinningsrik powerpop med ofta humoristiska texter och har hyllats unisont av alla som recenserat den. Jämförelser har gjorts med bland andra Todd Rundgren/Utopia, XTC och Cheap Trick. Anders Lundquist (unfortunately, it is Swedish but you get the idea).
You could say that Martin Gordon personifies the term ‘many-sided’. The composer and multi-instrumentalist began as bassist with Sparks and later worked with Kylie Minogue, George Michael, Blur, Primal Scream and others. His first solo album The Baboon in the Basement / Zomba contains classic seventies-style pop-rock, remeniscent of names like T. Rex, Bowie and Cheap Trick. Gordon is a man of taste. Henning Richter
Martin Gordon is a bassist, song-writer, was session player for Kylie Minogue, George Michael, Blur and Primal Scream. His solo CD Baboon in the Basement / Zomba swings between 80s bombast rock and new wave pop, with great guitar work from Andy Reimer. JU
A grand CD full with classy power pop! Think classic power pop a la Todd Rundgren & Cheap Trick… in all 13 songs from the gentleman who’s played with with T. Rex (huh?), Primal Scream, Radio Stars, Sparks and Blur. Also appearing on the CD – for the first time for ages – is Pelle Almgren (Wow Liksom ) as guest!
He is a recording circuit periphery tramp. Martin Gordon has worked in multiple largely unaccredited capacities with names like the Rolling Stones, Blur, George Michael and many others. Also, he has contributed with official title asbassist of Sparks (Brit-mutated neurotic 1970’s poppers) and songwriter/bassist with Jet/Radio Stars (more at oddball glam-rock). Not satisfied with having his visions reduced to that of an ordinary member of a band or a behind-the-scenes contributor, Mr. Gordon decided to give solo a go with The Baboon in the Basement.
Martin Gordon is also actually his present band that chose not to reference the words band or group in its title. Even more alarming is that the moniker belongs to a member that is not the lead singer. Maybe it’s fortunate; Pelle is a former Swedish solo artist whose pop-rock vocals allegedly resulted in fleeting yet grand stardom.
Pelle Almgren resembles a ballad-free Robbie Williams stuffed with the obnoxiously gelastic style of Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays and Black Grape). On balance, they suit the instrumentally enhanced jungle dance hop (ala Black Grape). Martin’s lyrics are consistently laced with satirical wit and cover observances from the himself, general human nature and politics.
The Baboon in the Basement features and assortment of enjoyable tunes delivered in a consistent yet unique sound. Three sweet covers include the Rolling Stones’ “We Love You”, T-Rex’s “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” and “Tonight” by The Move proved elastic when are each updated with Gordon’s playful arrangements. At 15 tracks and a reprise, the disc plays at nearly a full hour filled with enjoyable tracks. The consistency makes for a lengthy appealing commercial album.
(Brought to you live from the planet Tharg. Uncertain about hidden meanings, here…. Or, indeed, revealed meanings.)
You may not be at all familiar with the name Martin Gordon but you will be quite familiar with some of the artists he has worked with/for (Sparks and Blur to name but a few). He’s gotten around at last to a record of his very own, the obtusely named The Baboon in the Basement, and you might hear bits of his former endeavors in this very original recording.
With vocalist Pelle Almgren, guitarist Andy Reimer and drummer Chris Townson (Martin plays the bass, piano, does programming and sings backups), Martin’s tunes come to life as impeccably upbeat quirky pop. Many of the songs, not only in terms of recording but in spirit, have a timeless appeal to them like they could have been created anytime in the last thirty years but don’t suffer from a recording style that would leave them sounding dated. ‘Its Like It’s Like’ and ‘Anyway Goodbye’ are cracking good songs, while covers of the Stones’ ‘We Love You’, T-Rex’s ‘Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles’ and The Move’s ‘Tonight’ fit in well with Gordon’s outstanding compositions. The title track itself is exotically flavored rock that proves Gordon’s depth in songwriting to be most deep indeed.
So it’s much better to listen to The Baboon in the Basement than the monkey on your back, pardon the pun. I’m most happy to have been given the chance to discover Martin Gordon’s music.. Jack Alberson
The best glam rock album since 1973! If you love smart, twisted power pop masterworks played by an ace band that rocks as hard as the Hives or Soundtrack of Our Lives, you don’t want to overlook this little gem. If you liked Sparks’ Kimono My House, Bowie and the Spiders, T. Rex, The Move circa “Do Ya” and “California Man,” Roxy Music with Eno, The Sweet, or 10cc, this will be right down your alley. No. 6 of 2003 Top 20 Kent Benjamin
This CD doesn’t fit the typical sound that this web site focuses on. This CD sounds like an 80’s pop rock/top 40, INXS/George Michael mix. The songs are catchy and easy to sing along with. The vocals are heavily layered, and the music consists of synthesizers in tandem with the typical rock composition (i.e. guitar/drums/bass). The CD varies from funk, upbeat danceable tunes, and solid pop rock songs. The vocalist has a strong range and he has laid down some impressive harmonies. With the way music has been recycled every 10 – 15 years, it is possible that Martin Gordon may have a shot at top 40 radio. Buck Dingo
Martin Gordon was the bass player and songwriter in the two excellent 70’s bands, Jet and Radio Stars, as well as playing in the classic ’74 / 75-era Sparks band and this is his first solo album. That pedigree makes it worth picking up, but you’ll find the strands of melodic theatrical quirky, glammy progressive power pop. Of the 16 songs here, a large dose find themselves in familiar territory of his previous bands’ output and that is only a very, very good thing, of course. But you’ll hear elements of 10cc, City Boy and ELO in here! The only thing we’d mention as a slight drag is the drum sound is constrained by budget considerations inside the largely ambitious artistic vision going here. Very Highly Recommended.
Martin Gordon’s name was first brought to my attention via The Radio Stars way back in halcyon land. But, you live and learn, and it wasn’t until I read his bio on his site (www.martingordon.de) I knew he’d been in Sparks! This new release is an album that’s a kind of catharsis in some respects (well, it is when you read what the tracks are about!), and features sixteen songs. Admittedly, not all are as strong as, say, Why Do I?, Only One Dream Per Person and Hit Him On The Head (With A Hammer), and She’s So Pleasant Today (and a stunning cover of Jagger/Richards’ We Love You and Roy Wood’s Tonight). Gordon is aided by Pelle Almgren, Chris Townson, and Andy Reimer, as well as the odd contribution from Connie Bloom, Pelle Andersson, Olaf Bergius, and Shanti Sungkono and was recorded and engineered in a variety of places from Stockholm to Berlin. The production is superb and like I’ve said, with the exception of maybe two or three weaker songs (still pretty decent compared to most you hear on Radio one!) there’s some sparkling songs. There’s actually some decent guitar work as well in and amongst! Good luck to the man… (DW). Dave W Hughes
Gordon’s name will be familiar to Shindiggers for his work with the bands Sparks, Jet, and Radio Stars, as well as his more recent stint with the reformed John’s Children. The Baboon In The Basement is Gordon’s first solo album and it’s a good ëun, most reminiscent of early ë80s (read: non Deface The Music) Utopia in all its colossal glory. Gordon pulls off everything very keenly with a little help from his geographically diverse friends, guitarist Andy Reimer, ex-Jet and John’s Children drummer Chris Townson, and lead vocalist Pelle Almgren, whose balls-out pipes may remind listeners of the great contemporary popster, Doug Powell. There’s no holds barred on The Baboon In The Basement, as every song is high octane pop spiked with Reimer’s beefy guitar licks and thick production by Gordon, who also pens most of the tunes.
Songs like “It’s Like It’s Like,” “Why Do I,” “Hit Him On The Head (With A Hammer)” and “She’s So Pleasant Today” are excellent slices of uber pop, while the title track adds a little rhythm for taste. The band also does some creditable covers of The Stones’ “We Love You,” the Tyrannosaurus Rex tune “Warlord Of The Royal Crocodiles,” and the Move classic “Tonight”. Gordon’s lyrical bent is quite clever throughout the album, but reaches its apex on the very funny “Greenfinger”. The best track herein is “Anyway Goodbye,” which will not leave your head for hours because its amazing chorus is unshakable.
The Baboon In The Basement is a very solid first effort by this veteran. Let’s hope there will be many more. David Bash
On his solo debut after several decades in the business as a band member, session man, and producer, Gordon offers punchy, upbeat straightahead rock with a glam whimsy that sounds almost as if it could have come out of Britain in the 1970s. The debts to early-to-mid-’70s British rock are evident in the crunchy guitar-oriented arrangements and tunes that derive from both pop and hard rock. Although it’s mostly original material, the covers provide an apt guide to Gordon’s sensibilities: the Move’s “Tonight,” the Rolling Stones’ “We Love You,” and Marc Bolan’s “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles.” Strong traces of David Bowie and the Beach Boys, to name a couple of influences, also bob up from time to time. It’s a competent journeyman reflection of his background in late-twentieth century non-punk/new wave pop-rock, and well-sung by Pelle Almgren in a high range. Richie Unterberger
This is a solo album by Martin Gordon who started his career as a bassist of Sparks, then moved to Jet and Radio Stars. He also took a position of producer for the recent album of Jet/Radio Stars/John’s Children. Surprisingly, this is his first solo album. The lineup of musicians in this album seems noteworthy as well – Pelle Almgren was a successful singer in Sweden in the early 1990s, guitar player Andy Reimer, has collaborated with an Egyptian orchestra and drummer Chris Townson has been Martin’s partner since the period of Radio Stars. Their performance does not sound like a simple style of band. Martin heavily introduced the taste of world music which he dealt with as a producer in the 1990’s, therefore the album seems good enough to be in the current hit charts, although it is based on power pop. It is appropriate to say that the album should be considered as a work by a composer/producer, rather than just a player. Yu Suzuki
Do you know the story of Anthony Kiedis and the jungle survival vacation? No? The Chilli Peppers singer lay one evenings dreamily in his sleeping bag and looked at the twinkling stars. The night was perfect, the sky clear. Suddenly Kiedis sensed a feeling in his ear. The lady-killer took action and pulled a five centimetre long, probably slimy, centipede out of his ear. From this day the Chilli Peppers have written only ear worms.
[This is an attempt to be humorous in German. A ‘hook’ in a pop song is called, in the German language, an ‘ear-worm’. Now you know. Stop it please, my sides, it’s killing me, etc. etc. etc.]
Well anyway, Martin Gordon – who is at the centre of all this – and his band also create easily remembered songs. To be sure, the quartet prefers hardrock to funky sounds. And the conversion works very well. Does it matter if the English misses a little? “The baboon in the basement had not quietly given up the ghost” – or perhaps it’s the idiom – I do not know it. [Yes dear, it’s an idiom. Or a word very similar]. Anyway, you’ve got to make money. There is enough elementary knowledge here, as important as knowing how to repair a Harley. So, enough already.
The Baboon in the Basement reminds me from time to time of Kansas burning on a slow flame. Singer Pelle Almgren is dynamic, the four musicians are at the peak of thier proficiency. Drummer Chris Townson (“lead and harmony drums”, aha!) grooves likes a pig and guitarist Andy Reimer coaxes really stylish licks out ofhis instrument. Songs like “It’s Like It’s Like” and “Warlord of the Royal Crocodiles” hit the goal exactly with a good-time attitude. The sound is also okay.
To me, it’s a bit polished – possibly. There are a couple of definite hit singles here, however.
JK (translated rather incompetently by the webmeister)
Gordon is probably best known for playing bass with Sparks, not to mention playing a critical part in several glam-rock aggregations of the 70s and 80s. Gordon turns back the clock with The Baboon in the Basement and stands his own against many of the younger pretenders to the vacant glam-rock throne (eg. Suede, the Dandy Warhols). A good reference point is Todd Rundgren’s pre-Utopia work. Great fun. Kevin Mathews
Who would have thought that the ex-bassist of Sparks would, after years of working with Asian world music productions, rock out again like this? A timelessly great rock record, that could come from any time in the last 20 years. Friedhelm Teicke – 3/3
Here’s a guy who’s completely bloody bonkers: Martin Gordon. He’s an English ex-pat (aren’t they always the maddest?) living in Berlin. And he’s produced ‘The Baboon In The Basement’ (21 July) – a mad LP of loony witterings which does, however, include the very funny and infuriatingly catchy (she) ‘Hit Him On The Head With A Hammer’.
Martin Gordon is a musician who most people have probably heard, thanks to the people he’s worked with and for, who include all kinds of folks from Sparks via Blur to Kylie Minogue, but the Baboon in the Basement is his first solo album. Along with Swede Pelle Almgren, guitarist Andy Reimer and drummer Chris Townson (he played with the Who while Moon was still alive!), he throws us this weird and highly entertaining piece of work that would be impossible to categorise even if you wanted to. Perhaps the eclectic choices of covers might help – ‘We Love You’ from the Rolling Stones, done in a completely modern funky treatment, and ‘Tonight’ by the Move also gets his pop treatment. It’s clear – the man knows what he is doing. He knows how to write catchy pop songs that aren’t disposable.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that the arrangements are less regular rock arrangements than a complete pop orchestra. Some may find the tricks on one or other pieces over the top but you just have to remember – he knows everything, so he’s allowed to do it. Except for the title tune, which is clearly one for the kids, the Baboon is a surprisingly fresh and original piece of work, certainly for someone who, like Gordon, has been in the business for 30 years. Ullrich Maurer
Martin Gordon has participated in many bands, such as Sparks, Jet and Radio Stars, and is still fresh in our minds having worked with British artists like Blur and Primal Scream. His first ever solo album has now been released and he has managed to put the essence of pop at every turn in the album, which links to Cheap Trick and Todd Rundgren, and to make the album sound pop and powerful; it is a real power pop album, indeed. Here he shows his talent as a song writer as well as his well-known skill as a bass player. It is a must album for all power pop freaks!