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I've just accidentally written a mammoth essay on Johnny Foreigner and the death of childhood and how it relates to their spiky bubblegum post-punk and now I'm taking a total u-turn in my strangely meandering review voyage - this CD has a quartet featuring Mick Harvey and Alexander Hacke of the Bad Seeds, Neubauten, etc, alongside Danielle de Picciotto and Paul Wallfisch. Hacke is already in my good books this year for that classy Unsemble album he just did with Duane Denison, although this album is a different prospect entirely.
Here the quartet interpret 12 Grimm fairy tales into passages of brooding cinematic post-punk and experimental pop. 'Rumpelstiltskin' is a Tom Waitsian piano grind with Hank Marvin-does-Morricone guitar wibble and wheezing organ stabs and spy-movie brass swells, bonkers, but 'The Frog Prince' which follows it is a far more understated guitar-led ballad that morphs into something weirder, then 'Cinderella' is a sleepy piano waltz with an amusingly swift accelerando section and gorgeous hummed harmonies and scratchy fiddle, conjuring a rain-swept Parisian street in my imagination.
The masterful musicality and understated cleverness of it all is hard not to compare to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, it's almost like 'Murder Ballads' crossed with 'Peter and the Wolf', all the songs have so many twists and turns in their clever and unpredictable arrangements that they're more like mini-operettas than songs. This is really good, sprawling and grandiose and impressive in a similar way to Grant Hart's recent 'The Argument'. Not the novelty record I feared it might be.
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