No one plays guitar as excitingly as Will Sergeant.
I'm sat in the garden, right, and its sunny an' all, and despite the squealing from the stupid posh girl students from the Dutch No Taste Academy, (Sophie Ellis Bexter human production line department), and their shitty Sky Radio melange of Maccy D's processed meat music, (that's polluting the atmosphere and frightening the Jay in the tree opposite), I've got this song I my head, right? In fact I've got snatches of five or six tracks, right, and they're all from this same album, right? Got that? And I'm thinking, or rather this album's got me thinking, right, over just how rare it is to hear an uncompromising, heartfelt, essentially musical body of work; (i.e. devoid of all outside pressures and pretensions). And how un-hip that is. And how I don't give a shit.
I'm going to describe this lp to you, and I'm going to try to do it without sounding like a yawningly fawning old bastard or some twit who works on that Bratsqueak, "NME", (i.e. devoid of all outside pressures and pretensions). Ready?
"A Golden Dawn" kicks off with a haughty, piano led refrain, very reminiscent of the "Get Carter"; and builds up to a widescreen, almost spaghetti western feel. And, all the time, driven by that trademark guitar growl. (Sergeant's music has always had a very filmic quality, and Curvature of the Earth is no exception). Then it all breaks down, via some squeamishly bad taste remedial synth noises; only to sprint off with a Velvets/Polaroids guitar groove. Thus enters "Spirit". Spooky kids voices float in and out again, (as does Sergeant's driving guitar), lending a trippy feel: However, before you think I'm describing some lame New Age mantra; let me tell you that "Spirit" is a restless, nervous track with breakdowns and quiet moments a plenty. "In Blue Sunshine" enters slowly and cautiously, dripping with an acid tinged regret, reminiscent (though, on reflection, how would I know), of some '70s package holiday love gone tragically wrong. It's like the Love Boat ran aground on some remote Pacific atoll, and there's nothing left for the crew to do except eat one another.
"I Have Seen the Sun Rise" showcases Paula Sergeant's voice, and lovely it is too; lending a quiet, dreamy, pastoral aspect to this song. It really is a beautiful arrangement; with Kraftwerk style synth stabs and plinky plonky keyboards all contributing to a restrained, epic hymn that you won't be able to remove from your memory for a week at least. "Kraken" is real spy thriller music; (I'm telling you, if this album was taken up by some big advert soundtrack, Will S would have a hit on his hands), at moments the guitar is getting into dreamy late Can territory, only to be kept sternly in check by the VW motors production line beat, (Wolfsburg branch). This all contributes to a slow burning, claustrophobic feel, like walking through empty cotton mills about to be knocked down.
To break all this dreamy melancholy up, Sergeant comes crashing in, smashing glass in a tea room with "Iggy & Ziggy", (a monumental title). No one plays guitar as excitingly as Will Sergeant; maybe Williamson, maybe GBV's Doug Gillard, but no-one else. This is a high speed, ice breaking, demented clock-work toy that twists and turns, fizzing and blowing sparks. Then it all breaks down, leaving weeping "For Your Pleasure" synths to lament it's demise.
"Expo 68" comes along, by contrast, like a jaunty uncle taking you out to the seaside; its dead up-beat and has a straight faced, wide eyed feel to it that you just immediately warm to. A kooky refrain shows that the jaunty uncle's copped some acid and is a bit wobbly.
"Chopped Hog" (another cracking title), takes the music machine's current fascination with the Glitter Stomp, and grinds their worthless, marketing evolved muse into the ground. An Eno-esque keyboard quietly announces the track; leading, you think, to a gentle float downstream on a punt; but no, before you've time to relax, in comes the thumping-est glitter stomp since The Sweet. A crappy, watery synth melody adds to the comedy, but before you think things are getting too ironic, Sergeant sets the world to rights with some really menacing guitar runs. There's a great sense of balance running right through this lp, but its seen to full advantage on this track. And off it goes, waved farewell by those Eno-esque keyboards. Bloody ace.
"Rotation 1" builds up like something off "Church of Anthrax" or Cluster's "Sowiesoso", and then in comes the menacing guitar, growling and snapping round your legs. Synthesizer snatches reminiscent of "Closer", but more like Death In Vegas, (without the public schoolboy enthusiasms).
"Curvature of the Earth" is another stop-start atmosphere laden cruise round backwoods Hungary, (oh, and that's another thing; this is great driving music), sliding guitars break up the rhythm, with daft (and again Cluster style) synths buzzing round like flies.
Then its off for a bracing walk along the beach for (guess what), "Ainsdale Beach, April", in the company of lots of backwards and psychedelic noises, propelled all the time by a sparse, insistent drum. A really refreshing last track, I think, Matron...
Maybe I should play this to those students.................
Words: Richard Foster
Illustration : Paul Overdijk