Martin Gordon is ringmaster in the grotesque pop circus known as Time Gentlemen Please. After his last album, we pick up where we left off. The combination of guitars, brass, ukulele provide the raucous opening to the absurdist “Elephantasy.” Only a talent like Gordon can make a song about alcoholism with the lyric “It’s official, we’s a hero/but I’d be happier drinking a beer-o.” Gordon’s melodic talents and pessimistic viewpoint make him the perfect combination of XTC and Randy Newman. Fans of 10cc will also enjoy the catchy “On and On” layered with bright harmonies. Another standout is a dark prog-ballad version of The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine.” The influence of Zappa is sprinkled throughout here and there. The deliciously un-PC “If Boys Could Talk and Girls Could Think” and “Talulah Does The Hula From Hawaii” are a lot of fun and will get you humming. With 16 tracks, some tunes work better than others and Gordon sparkles when he moves beyond novelty tunes. A great example of this is “Incognito Ergo Sum,” a depraved celebration of celebrity culture. And I love the “Lady Madonna” bass line thrown into the catchy “Passionate About Your Elevator” too. If you prefer your rock/pop to have a sharp wit, look no further.
8/10 Aaron Kupferberg
Martin Gordon is not a household name, even in my household, which is home to several albums he’s on, going back to Sparks’ Kimono My House, released in 1974. Gordon’s long-ago dismissal from Sparks was abrupt and seemingly inexplicable, and there was acrimonious fallout, but when the band recreated the album onstage last year, their bassist studiously copied Gordon’s distinctive bass lines.
The other Gordon recordings I am most familiar with are those with his post-Sparks band, Jet. Not the contemporary one, the 70s one, the one AMG dubbed “the first glam supergroup.” Gordon’s songwriting flourished on the two albums’ worth of material that has surfaced from the band, which trafficked in chunky guitar riffs and ridiculously catchy hooks.
Many of Jet’s characteristics, and Gordon’s exceptional songwriting, continued in the better-known Radio Stars and over a series of solo albums. The most recent, Time Gentlemen Please, paints a typically dire portrait of 21st century humanity, but does it so entertainingly, it distracts one from the certainty of the impending apocalypse.
This review appeared, pretty much like this, on Blogcritics, and refers to a promotional
CD that was provided to me free* of charge. *If the FCC truly has nothing better to do than police penny-ante bloggers like me over the handful of promotional materials they receive every year, we are as doomed as Mr. Gordon makes us out to be.
And then Mr Gardner’s review from Blogcritics followed…
When it arrived in the mail, the first thing I noticed is that Martin Gordon’s new album is nicely packaged. From the clever evolutionary clock front illo, to the artfully designed lyric pages within, the enclosed booklet reflects uncommon quality in these recessionary times. I also appreciated the helpful warnings on the back—“Do not place this CD in boiling water. In case of overwhelming hunger, do not attempt to eat this CD”—because, well, with me, better safe than sorry.
Unfortunately, as interesting and appealing as Time Gentlemen Please appears, and as intriguing as it sounded that one time I played it in the car stereo on my commute, I’m a busy guy, and really, who’s got time to listen to a whole album, much less write it up?
Good thing there are so many capable music reviewers on the Internet. Radiant Future, Gordon’s longtime label, must have sent out scads of review copies, if the number of write-ups on the Web is any indication. Because they are all probably better reviewers than me, and like I say, I’m kind of rushed, I cut and pasted some of the best comments I found about Time Gentlemen Please, which I’ve compiled for you here:
“Gordon’s pedigree with preeminent art-rock outfits Sparks and Jet (his 70s glam band) stands him in good stead here, as the mad pop ideas and heady lyrics fly fast and furious. While an entertaining listen, his dour outlook on mankind’s prospects for the future will give one paws.” — Canine Fancier Quarterly
“One look at titles like “Houston We Gotta Drinking Problem” and “Incognito Ergo Sum” hint at bassist/songwriter Martin Gordon’s wit and facility with language, if not his lyrical concerns. This album, billed as “the fifth and final outpouring of bile and spite in the so-called Mammal Trilogy,” is Gordon’s soundtrack to the final ticks of the Atomic Clock, both a jovial indictment of humanity for what we’ve done to ourselves, and a resigned shrug at the futility and finality of our situation. Full of energy, yet thematically often downbeat, listening to this album is something like cutting your Xanax with crystal meth.” – Contemporary Drug Interaction Journal
“Another in a string of clever-bordering-on-brilliant solo offerings from a chronically underappreciated artist. The classically-trained Martin Gordon has surrounded himself with a tight band of like-minded, versatile players — check the nylon string-morphing-to slide guitar solo on “You Can’t See Me” — and a frontman-ready Swedish lead singer, Pelle Almgren, who has acknowledged that he doesn’t always understand what he’s singing. Gordon’s experience with Spark’s innovative songwriter, Russell Mael, is as evident as his impeccable influences.” — Offshore Heavy Equipment Manufacturing Monthly
“Standout cuts include the Jellyfish-esque “21st Century Blues,” “On and On,” the Kinks-y “Talulah Does the Hula From Hawaii,” and the woozy, menacing, and captivating ‘Elephantasty.’ — Specialty Socket Sales
“Mr. Gordon and his friends play well together. Many of the selections lend themselves to dancing and singing along (although parents may wish to program around the tunes ‘If Boys Could Talk and Girls Could Think’ and ‘Shoot the Women First’ lest they lead to some awkward questions about gender equality!) Mom and Dad may recognize the Beatles’ classic, “I Feel Fine,” by title if not otherwise. Where the original was bright and peppy, Mr. Gordon’s remake is slow and gloomy. He doesn’t sound ‘fine’ at all! (Note: Don’t be misled by the title, Time Gentlemen Please. This album does not attempt to teach either telling time or manners.)” — Childrens’ Recreation and Creativity Jamboree!
“Lively!” — Modern Mortuary Management
Overall, they seem to think this is a CD you ought to hear. Me, too! As soon as I get time . . .
James A Gardner
Almost entirely by chance, the next new album in today’s pile contains a striking version of that very song (‘I Feel Fine’), daringly grafted on to a 7/8 time signature and slowed to a creepily insidious crawl not unlike XTC’s ‘Life Is Good In The Greenhouse’. Stand up MARTIN GORDON, you’re a credit to your legendary former bands Sparks, Jet and Radio Stars. Time Gentlemen Please (Radiant Future) is in effect an extended rumination on the “end days” – the compelling notion that humanity’s number is up as glaciers, economies and society itself collapse around us while we listlessly thumb through Heat magazine and over-populate The Jeremy Kyle Show. In the Scottish idiom, we’re about to get our arses felt.
However, Martin and his cracking crack band (vocalist Pelle Almgren, guitarist Ralf Leeman and drummer Stephen Budney) have taken the most bleakly unedifying subject matter and hosed it with mordant wit and ironic joie de vivre in a winning manner which my son Louis has taken to describing as “grimsical”. Again, we’re stretching the prog remit thinner than the skin of a bubble here as the cheeky-faced bumptiousness of Gordon’s songs is generally more Radio Stars than Radiohead: but in among the crunchy new wave snap and crackle there is copious and consistent evidence of real harmonic ingenuity and, always, the bracing intelligence of Gordon’s lyrics (‘Interesting Times’, ‘Incognito Ergo Sum’).
Sparks may be long over, but one of their main spark plugs is still at it and is still so delightfully left field you almost have to wonder if there’s anyone left with the sense of humor that can appreciate where he’s coming from with his 70s-flavored musical oddball-ness.
Bassist Martin Gordon, formerly of Sparks, Jet and Radio Stars, has ploughed an idiosyncratic furrow on his five solo albums of this decade, known collectively, with proud inaccuracy, as The Mammal Trilogy. If offbeat cleverness is your bag, Gordon can certainly provide. Like Sparks or 10CC, he will take a quirky scenario and develop it most creatively with articulate wit and extravagant arrangements that, for all their intricacy, come replete with smart pop verve. Rather than coating with smooth mid-70s sheen, however, Gordon retains some of the impertinent rough new-wave vitality of Radio Stars. In fact you might even be reminded of Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, if you knew of them in the first place.
Time Gentleman Please continues productively in the vein of its predecessors. Thus we have indicative titles ‘Houston We Gotta Drinking Problem’, ‘If Boys Could Talk And Girls Could Think’, ‘Elephantasy’, ‘I Have A Chav’, ‘Shoot The Women First’ (yes, sexism is present), ‘Passionate About Your Elevator’, ‘I’m Budgie (Don’t Fly Me)’, and finally an impressive Floyd pastiche, ‘You Can’t See Me’. There exists a small, admiring following of cognoscenti, but Gordon deserves a wider audience, and that means you, dear reader.
The final chapter in his apocalyptical Mammal Trilogy spanning five socially-observant solo albums (no, bear with me here, it’s worth it…) finds former Sparks bassist Gordon in a state of elated exuberancy, plunging with brutally droll verve into this last-gasp swipe at the folly of the human condition.
It’s a heady cocktail of Gordon-penned pop/swing/rock/music hall by way of prog, served up by the Germany-based Brit and his crack US/Swedish band (his bitter-sweet lyricism brilliantly expressed by vocalist Pelle Almgren) with Bonzo-esque ukelele and double bass thumping away in the background.
Gordon wears his influences by way of celebration rather than emulation: Sailor, Robyn Hitchcock, Ray Davies, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd and the Small Faces are spirited away here. And then there’s the man’s brilliantly mordant take on the Fab Four’s ‘I Feel Fine’; within it’s emotionally charged contrariness lies one of the finest Beatles covers ever. That his writing stands up so well alongside marks Martin Gordon as one of Britain’s most accomplished songwriters.
There is not a duff track on this album yet he resides on music’s touchline. From his stool in this metaphorical Last Chance Saloon, Gordon urges his maker “Come out, come out whoever you are, my God, whoever you are”. We must urge him harder to do the same: from start to finish, this is just great music.
The fifth and apparently final installment in Martin Gordon’s mammal trilogy takes its title from the traditional cry of British barmen, moments before the premises close for the evening. It’s the cue for everybody to glug down as many drinks as they can in the little time that remains, and there’s a similar sense of urgency to the album, as no less than 16 songs are sluiced down the listener’s throat, with each one proving more intoxicating than the last. So just when you think “Elephantasy” is possibly the most politically incorrect ode to large ladies since Morrissey’s “You’re the One for Me, Fatty,” “Come out Come out Whoever You Are” marries a glorious slab of religious irreverence to the kind of screaming singalong that most people only associate with the Beatles — and then transcends even them as Gordon swings immediately into “I Feel Fine,” the latest in his catalog of fab Fabs covers.
Drawing, as usual, from both current affairs and his own internal directory of cutting observations, Gordon’s lyrics are as sharp and shapely as ever, but with an extra-added raucousness that lifts Time Gentlemen Please above all but the best of its predecessors. But comparisons between the five, like attempts to single out the best songs on this album, are redundant. Like the cry that gave it its name, Time Gentlemen Please rings out over the most crowded room and snags everybody’s attention. Can we have another trilogy, please?
Martin Gordon has a back history longer than my memory, but anyone who’s been taught to play bass by Jeff Clyne or had the bass stool on Sparks ‘Kimono My House’ has my sympathy. The album? Like Roger Waters with a smile? Bonzo Dog Doh Dah Band up-dated and a bit rock-ish? Or, maybe most of all, a lyrical and musical inventory not heard since the early days of 10cc.
Anyway, on his new release, ‘Time Gentlemen Please’, Martin Gordon continuously in a lightly satirical mood explores subjects not too often heard on records nowadays, as pissed astronauts (Huston We’ve Got Drinking Problem), gender behaviourism reversed (If Boys Could Talk And Girls Could Think), et cetera. Martin Gordon sublimely avoids the most common traps with humour, to be just funny, he manages to go beneath the surface and gives us things to reflect upon. On the album Gordon has good help from Swedish Pelle Almgren on lead vocals, Ralf Leeman (ukulele and guitars), Stephen Budney (drums) and others. They all are doing a good job.
Martin Gordon (Jet, Radio Stars, Sparks) has returned. Not too sure if he still favors the sleeveless tee but I can verify that his wordy cleverness and impressive ability to craft a pop tune is fully intact. Thank “God” – or whatever fuels your own personal existence – for that. His pal Pelle Almgren is also back to put voice to this latest batch of tastiness while Ralf Leeman (guitar) and Stephen Budney (drums) round out the line-up.
Fans of any of Martin’s previous work (aforementioned Jet, Radio Stars, John’s Children, Blue Meanies etc.) will not be disappointed and I really must add that if the world was a somewhat more perfect and just place we would hear a lot more of this kind of rock’n’rolliness in malls, playgrounds, halls of hallowed institutions, government offices and the like.