It’s a payola scandal! A great rock ‘n roll swindle! Under incessant pressure and non-stop pushing of ‘product’, Plain Or Pan has succumbed to the bung and the bribe. With a pocketful of untraceable fivers and the number for a burner phone that I’ve been assured will offer up the earthiest of earthly delights, I bring you The NoMen. They have me in their collective pocket and, to be honest, there are far worse places you could find yourself. Their latest album, A Bad Reputation Is A Good Place To Start might sound like the sort of title The Cramps would’ve given to any number of their 2-minute punkish twangers, but the 20 tracks contained therein sound in equal parts wonky, obtuse, singular and entirely heartfelt and dedicated. I daresay there’s a Lux influence in there somewhere, but there’s so much more besides.
The NoMen have been around for almost twenty years and remain something of a mystery. Despite radio specials in France, Germany and Canada, they have appeared live only twice, much preferring instead to bunker down in the studio and produce album after album of self-mad, self-made, lo-fi psychedelia. To date they have released at least 8 or 12 or 17 albums. It’s hard to tell, and harder to keep up with. The Pain Of Jazz. If Not Why, Then When? Straight To Dave. Dawn Of The NoMen. Just some of the unique and uncategorisable albums in their back catalogue that might warrant your attention.
Self-proclaimed children of Ed Wood and Joe Meek, their blend of fuzz-soaked, analogue boppery skirts around the same sort of margins as artists as individual and diverse as Psychic TV, Ween and Buffy Sainte Marie.
On the latest LP, a collaboration no less between NoMen and ex Swell Maps’ Phones Sportsman, the tracks that first pricked my ears included the campfire lullaby of HuMan (Evolution In A Nutshell), worth the price of admission for the extended coda alone, and Karma Pyjamas, a track that falls short of two minutes but manages to fuse the day-glo imagination of Super Furry Animals with Robert Kirby’s string arrangements for Nick Drake underneath a sneering vocal that wouldn’t sound out of place in a high camp ’70s horror film.
Elsewhere in this pot pourri of controlled madness, you’ll come across drawling Cope-ish, Mark E Smith-like vocals, subsonic fuzz bass and all manner of jerky, quirky incidental parts.
You’re never far from a Radiophonic Workshop-influenced proto-electro whoosh or a Dalek-voiced Cabaret Voltaireism or a janglin’, reverb-soaked 12 string guitar, and often, you’ll hear all three of these disparate influences before the band has alighted on the first chorus. The NoMen dig anything from the outer musical margins that might have been released between ’65 and ’75; the more obscure, the more discordant, the path less-travelled, all the better. Eno, Ono, you know….
…and their brilliantly bizarre tribute to Floran Schneider has to be seen to be believed.
You should investigate by visiting their Bandcamp page tout de suite. Now, where did I leave that number for the burner phone?`