THE DOOZER: "GREAT EXPLORERS"
So: The Doozer...yeah, The Doozer.
I bumped into the Pickled Egg guys several years ago (2004? 2005?) outside a show and they had their stall all nicely set out and it'd been a while since I'd been out and about and I thought: Oooh. Yeah, right. I was doing a couple bits o'writing for Bizarre magazine at the time, so I got chatting w/ them and picked up some bits n pieces n sheets of paper 'cos I thought a piece on their label (Daniel Johnston, Volcano the Bear, etc, etc - I mean, they've been at it for, like, ages...prowling the margins, broadcasting non.rock, alt.pop, outsider.songwerks n such) might hit a spot, but nothing really came of it. Sometimes I find those bits of paper under my desk and, you know, they're still at it, Pickled Egg...still monkeying around, ploughing odd-shaped fields and making a beautiful nuisance of themselves. Elbows: more power to theirs.
Consider this post a...I dunno, a bus that finally arrived, years too later. "Sorry" just don't cut the mustard sometimes.
So, yeah: The Doozer. He's turned up a couple times on this blog. Seen him solo-live a while back - he's good live, see, but even better on record, I reckon; he gets to spread out a bit, stretch his musical wings; things get fleshier, yet also blurry-ier; they go in and out of focus more, but still... - then it turns out he knows Pete Um n Nochexxx, and then he makes contact and the very same day I find out I'm actually appearing on the same bill as him sometime next year. The world's getting smaller by the minute. Soon it'll be smaller than Yeovil; soon you'll be able to keep it in a jar like Kandor.
So, uh, yeah: The Doozer.
This is his latest 'record':
I like it a lot. The use of apostrophes wasn't meant to be sarcastic or ironic or nuffink; it's just that...I'm old n stupid and the word "record" has a special, magical resonance to me and I don't like CDs much, and this...well, this is a record. It's not a CD (even tho it is) or a "release"; it's a record, as in an album, y'know, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. But at the same time, this isn't 1973 any more (tho it still is, somewhere or other) so this really isn't a record. Well, not quite. It's a 'record'.
"Great Explorers" is, as the title suggests, a travelogue of sorts - not a wildlife safari, but a gentle amble through the backstreets of yr home town, pointing out and assigning equal weight to the banal and the wonderful - a somnabulant meander thru misplaced memories, connecting random dot-to-dots to make a series of new, unexpected pictures from sheets of blank paper - it's dreamtravel; a softpsych pop.ramble; a quest to complete an imaginary map. But all done during your lunch-hour. While eating a sandwich.
A Sand Witch.
I really don't wanna make comparisons with that Other Cambridge Sound - with Syd and Robyn and so forth - other folks have pointed that out already, but the references are there and almost unavoidable: it's most noticable on opening track "Nothing Like The Hero" - but it's enunciation mostly; the way he sings with his nose, rolls certain words down the back of his throat; Doozer's music has a gentle, curious dark(ening) quality at points (hard to explain what I mean by that; a sense of approaching inner confliction, perhaps), but it's not suffused with melancholy like Syd's; it doesn't possess that sense of confusion, wrongness and loss - I really would'nt wish (or project) that on anyone.
"Everywhere you go, everywhere you go / Everywhere you go, the wind blows".
Plus, it's just - well - a lazy comparison to make, the Syd Thing..."Nothing Like The Hero" is lovely, fer sure, but just as you settle into its gently lilting, almost lolloping wake, just as you think you've got a handle on its soft hazy half-melody The Doozer wrongfoots you with a wonderful, rattling multi-tracked gtr break that sounds like Josef K wading through a field of (liquid) corn-syrup.
"Everywhere you go, everywhere you go / Everywhere you go, the wind blows".
"God Does Not Need Light" is fucking wonderful: a young Ringo Starr at the peak of his (vocal) powers ('71, '72) backed by some ramshackle picked-up-off-the-street junk-shop band: buoyant wah-wah gtr blips, ziggy-zaggy off-radar percussion that sounds like a stoned Salvation Army rhythm section, and just the most catchy counter-intuitive chorus ever: "I...am...just a being / I...am...just a being".
And, again, a mid-song breakdown that just doesn't make sense in the context of any known/established Psychedelic Musical Continuum: like the gtr-break on the previous track there's something oddly Post-Punk about this: a bubbling Farfisa-ish organ, hissing hats, off-kilter rhythm-gtr - it sounds curiously early-80s; a snippet from some forgotten Belgian alt-cabaret band on Les Disques du Crepuscule that's been cut-n-pasted in from another place, another song. It doesn't belong, yet it does. Like I said earlier: it's a travelogue, of sorts.
My favourite song of the year, so far.
"Hornbill". Yeah, well:
Just when I'm starting to stitch a picture together of my own (words like polyrhythmic, polymelodic are starting to congeal in my mind) the album goes somewhere entirely different. Restless legs, innit.
"Brother Lazarus" sounds like Ivor Cutler accompanying Richard Youngs; it's slow and measured, stately and incredibly moving. An unexpected gut-punch.
"Semut 1" is detuned vintage synth-modulations and Public Information Film snippets; an alternative docu-drama that wouldn't sound out of place on a Ghost Box or Mordant Music comp.
"Up and Down" is Kid Kid Shirt's favourite: she's 9 and digs the song's buoyancy, its off-kilter Syd-like swirl; it's sing-songy, yet slightly sad. Initially, it's nothing you can quite put yr finger on, but there's a distant sourness lurking beyond the superficial fairground giddiness, a frustration at love not returned quickly or fully enough: "I waaaant you / and everything you do..." And then the chorus: "Up and Down / And round" makes the song's queasy musical motion painfully implicit; this is a song about ducking and weaving, dodging and diving, hedging your bets, avoidance...the painful to/ing-and-fro/ing that blights many a misconcieved relationship; ill-aimed trajectories; a failure to connect. And the singer/protagonist's language darkens as his anger rises to the surface.
It's also catchy as fuck.
"Great Explorers" sounds like a more song-based extroplation of "Semut 1", but it really starts to take off a couple minutes in: folding in on itself, finding some unexpected inner reserve of strength it strides off across the scrublands in its shorts to give someone a jolly good talking to. It founds like a lost Velvet Underground instrumental circa 1969, if the VU were a group of middle-aged Ghanians who had borrowed an old Korg synth.
"I'm tooooooooo ooooooooooooold for public transport!" 'Nuff said, except for a woefully so-wrong-it's-right semi-flanged guitar-solo. Oh, and:
"I'm tooooooooo ooooooooooooold for public transport!"
Two more tracks to go, but - oh no! - is that my wife outside, knocking on my door? She's come to take me to Taunton for the day. She says:
"You're tooooooooo ooooooooooooold for public transport!"
And I say:
"Transport, transport, transport..."
And, so, I have to go.
But this is a fucking little gem of a 'record'. And you should check it out - even though your head is prob saying "I don't need any more CDs, any more unplayed songs on my hard-drive..."
'Cos this is where things started going wrong; we allowed ourselves to get buried in the crap - in a mound of mp3s - and started seeing music as data, as something we were entitled to take for Free, without putting anything back in. We started taking all the good stuff for granted.
Buy it while it's still there.
While something's still there.