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
Streetera 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"
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"
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.