Father Knows Best

Play it back to back with the new Mariah Carey album at your next party, and create a sensation!

We are, as my favorite art pornographer Bruce La Bruce put it recently,

living in a time of unparalleled cynicism.

Many of us have become expert consumers (of products, information) but

have fallen out of touch with certain fundamental appetites and elemental

realities, falling prey to an ironic malaise, a jadedness that causes us

to mistrust our own feelings and instincts. How else to interpret the

responses in some quarters to this sparkling debut by Britain's Gay Dad,

led by former rock scribe Cliff Jones?

Quite frankly, while Leisure Noise has garnered more than a few

rave reviews, the vitriol spewed by its detractors has been breathtaking.

Their main complaint seems to be that Jones and company have actually

set out to make a successful, listenable album of pop-rock tunes —

and succeeded, I might add. Perhaps this is a hangover from the Nirvana/Pearl

Jam "success is failure and vice-versa" school of thinking, yet one wonders

where rock 'n' roll would be if, say, Elvis had said to the boys back

around the time of The Sun Sessions: "OK, fellas, let's get real, real

godawful on the next one." Calculation, or mere common sense?

Ah well. For those who are able to listen with fresh ears, Leisure

Noise is an album that actually lives up to the hype, being a densely

packed montage of all the coolest rock influences: Glam-rock — meaning

not only Bowie but Cockney Rebel Steve Harley as well — Kraftwerk,

Neu!, Lloyd Cole, Mansun, Big Star, Nick Drake and even Exile on Main

Street–era Rolling Stones are but a few elements in this sonic

tapestry, yet none of these is obtrusive, with Gay Dad emulating, rather

than imitating, their heroes to exhilarating, non-ironic effect.

The key here, as with all great pop-rock, is Jones' winning way with a

melody. "Oh Jim" (RealAudio

excerpt) (named in homage to a song from Lou Reed's classic Berlin)

for instance, drives its point home with a memorable chorus and impassioned

vocal ("Can you feel the pain I'm in?"). Jones sounds like Mansun singer

Paul Draper's spiritual twin on the sleek, Krautrockish "Black Ghost"

(RealAudio

excerpt), an ode to depression, with its soaring, otherworldly

plea for "something or someone to free me — let me go, please!"

Yet Gay Dad are equally at home with a straight-up rawk rave-up, and

while "To Earth With Love"'s nostalgia may be a bit on the smarmy side

("That's cool — Aerosmith ruled!"), the glam-stomper "Dateline"

(RealAudio

excerpt) strikes just the right balance, with its existential

exhortation, "My oh my, we live from time to time, and day to day —

it's the only way," reviving the go-for-broke spirit of the New York Dolls.

From the first note to the last, Leisure Noise reverberates with

the originary spirit of rock 'n' roll, and if it at times strives a bit

too hard to ingratiate itself, that seems a minor flaw indeed in this

age of alienation. Never mind the bollocks: this Gay Dad knows best.