Very little is known to have come out of Barrow-in-Furness - the Cumbrian town at the tip of the Furness peninsular. Lots of ships and submarines were built there, Liverpool and England captain Emlyn Hughes was born there and its bus depot was referenced in a 1980s Chewits commercial. There was also its thriving but largely self-contained music scene. Gary Cook was a central figure in this scene, as a member of several bands and as a solo performer, until he died in 2006 at the age of 41. He was loved and respected by those that knew him. The Fabulous World of Gary Cook is a compilation of his lo-fi guitar and analogue electronic indie-goth-pop. Lyrically he is confessional, honest and at times funny and camp. The music, a collection spanning 30 years, is compiled from cassettes he left behind. Limited edition of 300 red vinyl with black and white splatter, hand numbered, never to be repressed.
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This is a great compilation of a songwriter that I'm fairly certain absolutely no-one anywhere (apart from maybe a few souls in Barrow-in-Furness) will be aware of. What it does though is instantly capture another time where people like Gary Cook recorded songs at home on 4 track, most of them destined to be heard by no-one -- the only way to get them out there would be to play eccentric, presumably ill-attended shows in the back rooms of local pubs. In the days when you couldn't upload tracks onto the internet and get an instant reaction, the music done purely for artistic reasons. Reading the back story, Gary Cook comes across as the type of chap who was born to play music, as if it was his only way of existence - like a northern, hairsprayed Martin Newell.
The songs here were made in the dark and gothy '80s and tracks like 'Ice Laughter' sound like demos the Cure discarded. Their are moments of hilarity (the Jilted John-like spoken outro to the aforementioned track), there are tons of flanged guitars, late night acoustic laments, early New Order-like electronic pop. It's not always great, but delve deep enough and you'll be rewarded. 'Somerset Water' is particularly brilliant, with the sort of melody many C86 bands would have killed for, and the closer 'After the Rain' does what Ariel Pink tries to do when he does his gothy Depeche Mode '80s trick.
Sadly Gary Cook passed away at the far too young age of 41. This is a lovingly put together tribute to the sort of person who would now be dubbed lo-fi bedroom genius.
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