Two reviewers, two different albums, two different perspectives.
Two reviewers, two different albums, two different perspectives.
Okay is Marty Anderson. One guy. He’s released two albums simultaneously. Not a double album, but two different albums that somehow work alongside each other. Or at least that’s what the record label tried to tell us. Anyway, the press release told us to give each album their own space and to think of them as seperate entities so we decided to try something a little different. If they want us to think of the albums as seperate, then why not review them seperately? Two reviewers, two different albums, two different perspectives. The results are below.
Okay – Low Road
"Like nothing you’ve ever heard before." That’s what it says on the back of the promo. "Yeah right!" I thought. When you read as many press releases for new albums as I do, you become skeptical of such things. For instance, if a press release states that the new album you hold in your hands is ‘experimental’ you can basically translate that to mean "Your favourite band have gone into a recording studio, spent billions of dollars and re-emerged with a complete bag of arse. Prepare to be disappointed." This press release also stated that the singer’s voice was a little ‘weird,’ which made me even more skeptical but also a little intruiged. I read on. Okay is Marty Anderson. Fair enough. Turns out he’s ill. Suffering from a particularly severe strain of Crone’s Disease. Poor fella. Bed ridden for almost a year. Recorded two albums in the house. Innovative. Stunning. Essential. Quite. I was more than intruigued now. I was still very skeptical, but I had to check this out. It was time to press play.
I was in love before the first song had even finished. In fact, the intro won me over. Bloody begins with a solemn, haunting and beautiful keyboard part that reminded me of Aimee Mann. It’s true that Marty’s voice was a little weird. Well no, not weird as such, but certainly unexpected and definitely startling to begin with. It’s a soft, quiet and almost strained croak that Marty posseses for a voice and although you’ll probably find it rather bizarre at first, you’ll get used to it very quickly. Now was so good it had me dancing round the living room immediately. The main riff is as catchy as hell (Take Blur’s Coffee and TV and thow in a bit of the VU’s Sweet Jane) and when the keyboards arrive in the second half of the song and Marty shouts, "Oh Yeah", you’ll want to scream it right along with him. In fact, if you can listen to this song and get to the end of it without joining in with the "There’s no way out for you and me now" parts then you simply have no love of music in you. It’s simple, precise and uplifting pop music and it is absolutely fantastic.
Holy War starts with the type of gentle guitar that should accompany every warm summer evening married to a lyric that includes the line "Every day they’ve got a gun up to my head." It’s wonderful. We begins with a throbbing, menacing bassline and a loose snare drum beat but ends in a bunch of kazoos and the type of electronic keyboard noises last used for those computer games where you’ve got arrange different shaped blocks. It’s a great listen.
Devil is fantastic. It skips along at a gentle pace, the guitars and keyboards are as jaunty as can be, the chorus is irresistable and it’s less than two minutes long. Hoorah! It’s the perfect pop song and it’s worth buying this album for alone.
By this point I was starting to believe that Marty could pull off almost anything and then he went right on and proved it. Replace is basically Amazing Grace with new lyrics. How on Earth this works is beyond me but where it should be crass and almost unlistenable it somehow ends up being emotional and heartfelt. It’s shocking how good this is.
Oh is so powerful it almost makes me break down in tears every time I hear it. Whether it’s the gentle bassline, the beautiful guitar playing or simply the way Marty sings, "It hurts to be stabbed in the back," I don’t know, but this song just tears me apart. By the time it gets to the end and Marty starts singing "It’ll never be you. It’ll always be me," I’m in desperate need of a hug, every time. It’s an astonishing song.
Game‘s tune is so happy and jolly it should be on Sesame Street. Roman darkens the mood somewhat with it’s fuzzy guitars and the wall of electronic white noise it builds up, but it’s still good. Hoot somehow manages to make the image of the Velvet Underground playing country music to a bunch of shit kicking line dancers a pleasant one. You’ll be cheering by the end of it. Bullseye closes out the album with a quiet, maudlin atmosphere. Bubbling water and spacious, echo laden guitars warp themselves around Anderson’s tortured vocals but then some twinkling chimes, an accordion and some radio interference are thrown into the mix to create a hauntingly abstract but wonderfully evocative ending.
I’m going to find it hard to restrain myself here because as I type I can feel the superlatives trying to get out. But then again, why should that matter? This album deserves superlatives. It doesn’t matter that he’s ill. It doesn’t matter that he recorded it in a house. It doesn’t matter that he has a croaky voice that, on first impression, made me think of Papa Smurf singing the Blues. Drop the baggage. Drop the hype. Drop the prejudice. Buy this album. You won’t regret it. It’s as quirky as the best of Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz stuff but far more intelligent, far more personal and far more entertaining. It’s also as funky, as offbeat and as impressive as anything Stephen Malkmus has done, with or without Pavement and it’s a lot more emotional. I tell you, if Malkmus or Albarn released anything near as good as this it’d be hailed as a masterpiece. This album has heart. This album has passion and it has soul. What was that the press release said? Innovative? Stunning? Essential? Quite. If you hear a better album this year you’ll be lucky.
Words : Damian Leslie
Okay – High Road
Right. I might as well tell you now.
The songs on High Road are impeccable. Wonderful in fact. In some ways there is no point reviewing this LP, save to tell you it is wonderful.
Simply put, it’s one of those great albums that defy any reviewer’s theorising, so I’m just going to concentrate on describing the music for you as best I can. Then you can go and get it and agree with me.
You get my drift?
Up has a soft, acoustic beginning, twittering bird noises underpinned with some bleepy synth. It’s a lovely, warm instrumental and it falls apart in the most delightfully psychedelic way by the end of the track. Good is a slow burner, building up over a hypnotic cyclical riff. Marty Anderson’s croaky vocals adding an otherworldly air to the proceedings. It really is hypnotic; especially when the chord changes are gently introduced about 2 minutes in.
Have starts off like it’s on a Neil Young album but becomes a wonderfully gentle and seductive mantra. A mantra that is over all too quickly. A puff of smoke and it’s gone… Compass arrives slowly, borne in by fractured guitar bleeping before settling down as a very patient and heavenly guitar strum. Everything is ordered, graceful and simple, but at the same time has a great deal of underlying texture. Still waters, in this case really do run very deep. The chord change in the middle of the song is truly stunning. Hungry is much more lively, a lovely uplifting number, again underpinned by a lo-fi acoustic arrangement. Despite the limited vocal range (well, a croak would be closer to the mark, but that sounds unfair), Anderson’s voice sounds amazingly reassuring and warm. The camp fire ethos that underpins this album is never more apparent than on the (appropriately named) Sing-along. You get guitar strumming, kazoos, xylophones and tambourines for your money here; all wrapped up in a heady, hippy-ish mix.
Mind is my favourite; a beautiful, swirling, repetitive melody that seemingly never ends, ascending slowly and elegaically into the summer sky like a balloon. Fight sees a semi-acoustic used to create a marching rhythm that quickly becomes a Toy Town parade, replete with kazoos and paper comb mouth organs. Things slow down slightly, and with the aid of a toy piano, things get more reflective. It all ends as a glorious fairground waltz, music that is seemingly totally at odds with the serious, anti-war lyrical content.
The next track, Give Up is lo-fi psychedelia in excelsis, the circular melodies and funny background noises building up an incredibly positive feeling in the music. (If there’s one thing that strikes you about this album, it is its essentially positive nature and outlook). A solitary car horn introduces Rescue, a song that begins in a somewhat maudlin manner, but a song that is soon enveloped in burbling synths and overlapping mantric lyrics about saving yourself. Yet again it is an oddly affecting piece without being too over emotive in delivery. Mindless begins as a somewhat disparate arrangement of noises and thumps, with Anderson presenting a list of things that seem to annoy him about his fellow countrymen. As ever on High Road, the lyrics are wry, humorous and tolerant musings and observations. Things pick up sonically and the multi-textured, acoustic-led music that is prevalent on the rest of the album takes over to create a suitably hymnal ending.
This album is a masterpiece.
Words: Richard Foster
To find out how to buy Okay stuff, click here. www.absolutelykosher.com