Saturday, 21 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #146 - Bobby Conn, "Macaroni"

Bobby Conn is a bit of a character, a bit of an indie rock envelope-pusher. Genres are as nothing to him, shadows in the rear window. He's got the rock'n'roll revolution idea, but he wears it so high-belted that it doesn't offend me as it does in the hands of a rampant Springsteen.

There's a feel of the late Seventies on this album. The title track is riddled with the kind of downplayed paranoia that was all over the place in those Winters of Discontent they had back then. Lyrically too, fixating on something domestic to reflect the fears and insecurities going on around them.

I panic for a moment listening to "Govt"  when I think he's singing  "Now that we know that Hitler's back/You can keep your Nobel prizes/We just want our country back". Am I enjoying music made by a right-wing nut salad? I'm not sure how I feel about that. But when I hear "We're working hard for you people" I prefer to think that he's spoofing those tea party types. But it was a valuable lesson that I shouldn't take politics for granted on the basis of an ATP appearance.

The next track, "Face Blind" gives me the spook. Tunes slide about behind with greasy violin music as he falsettos "I'll be here waiting for you". Then "The Truth" goes all AfroBeat with loose-threaded guitars and lopsided funky drums. "I don't want it/I don't want the truth." That 10cc feeling looms up again on "More Than We Need". I think it's the sense of perky showmanship, the feeling that pop can be smartarse without having to get too postmodern and secretive about it. A bit like Super Furry Animals, especially as it builds up.

From that cute tune, "Can't Stop the War" kicks off with baying crowds, helicopter noises and gunfire and screaming. The creepy violin is back too: my nerves are razored. Musically it sits near Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and something more constipated. Perhaps this is another ironic portrait of liberal hand-wringing, and Bobby is just sketching out a gallery of different political types. There's a bit of French on there, and we all know how fondly the cheese-eating surrender monkeys are viewed between the coasts in the US. But I think his sympathies are not with them.

"GREEED" gets stuck into Monsanto and the like. "Underground Vktm" is a bit of pseudo-outsider-bashing: "There's always writing their opinions/And I'm sick of their opinions/Nothing ever seems to happen now/Unless they write it down/...1991, 1992/Was it a Golden Age?/Or bullshit fantasy?" A bit of an old man rant, Bobby being nearly 45 and all. Nirvana bashing? "We don't care anymore" - is that the problem? Grunge-inspired apathy? Bobby gotta lotta rage. Maybe the macaroni is a Yankee Doodle revolutionary macaroni, tucked in Bobby's hat? Or maybe just nostalgic comfort food.

And the violin is back in less creepy form on "Walker's Game". More of a chamber pop feel about it, but still angry. That's one thing about the fiddle, you can tell when someone's playing it angry. Maybe that's why Bobby likes it. Plenty of foggy, crystalline MOR feel to the track too, back to that late Seventies feel. Is he nostalgic for rage in a simpler age, a more democratic time? He's one complex carbohydrate and no mistake.

Rating: Revolution out of Nostalgia

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