Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Great Albums 35: The Defenestration of St Martin - Martin Rossiter (2012)

Bit of a turnaround this.  When I first heard this album earlier this year I dismissed it as another effort like Brett Anderson's solo LP - not a patch on the band he'd left behind.  Rossiter's distinctive voice apart, this sounds nothing like Gene, for one thing, and for another it seemed a bit, well, simple.

But Phil Craggs told me I was wrong, and for once he was right.

It needs a few listens, but I'm increasingly coming to think this is a better album than anything Gene ever did.  Which is odd - usually I like complex instrumentation and arch lyrics, whereas this is all piano and the lyric...well the lyrics are deceptively simplistic.  At times it sounds as though Rossiter wrote all these songs singing haphazardly in the bath.  The rhymes are obvious, the vocal tends to follow the piano melody and there's little by way of overdubs. 

But the lyrics often turn out to be layered and pretty bloody clever, if horribly bleak.  Maybe that's the attraction - this is an album as miserable as Beck's 'Sea Change', or Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon'.  It's not an album without humour - check out the glorious choir which appears from nowhere in 'I Must be Jesus' - but even the humour has an element of the downbeat about it ('I must be Jesus' concerns a child reflecting on his pain-filled life), and the opening ten minute ode to a shit, shit father sets a tone which rarely lets up across a handful of tracks which consider child abuse, prostitution, death and lost loves.  It should be one note, it should be earnest, but it's neither.

Instead it feels like a lost Perfume Genius album, only with a better vocalist and longer songs.  Hard to think of a higher recommendation than that.  Give it a listen, then remember it's a grower and play it a few more times - you'll thank me...

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