❉ Never mind the Buzzcocks – Micko and friends are here!
“Like the great English lyricists of previous decades, Micko’s lyrics are tricky to pin down, rarely capable of only a single reading and allow for multiple interpretations, but which always seem, somehow, to contain the exact right phrase.”
“I needn’t mention how essential dreaming is to the character of the rock star.”
(from the script to the movie Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes)
Here it is, at last. The follow-up to 2020’s exceptional debut album ½ Dove, ½ Pigeon from art-rock maestros Micko and the Mellotronics.
Has it really only been three years? Somehow it seems much longer than that – but that’s the effect lockdown has had. Stretching time out and causing whole years to disappear from the count, so that the beginning of COVID seems as long ago as the 1990s and as far away as the other side of the world.
Not that Micko Westmoreland and his band of brothers (and sisters) have been resting on their laurels in that not-quite-as-long-as-you-might-think period. Forced into a lineup change as Vicky Carroll moved out of town and was replaced on bass by Budge Magraw (who I only just realised was part of The Cesarians, whose fantastic Rachel Frieda album came out around the same time as ½ Dove, ½ Pigeon), they’ve been gigging extensively while they put together the songs which make up Le Vice Anglais.
As before, the band is joined by a flurry of guest stars, plucked from Micko’s apparently endlessly deep address book – for instance, Kevin Eldon (best know as the tv star of It’s Kevin, Hyperdrive and Fist of Fun) joins on vocals for the lead single [What’s in a] Name. Inspired by Micko watching the DVD extras of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads of all things, it’s exactly what I was hoping to hear on the new album: jagged guitar, looping bass and a sharp, witty lyric, complete with a gleeful stab at the class system and just how much difference it really makes in the end.
Second single Autosexual, featuring the legendary Specials bass man Horace Panter playing alongside Magraw (two bass players for the price of one!), is even better: a modern take on Buzzcocks 1977 track Orgasm Addict, it continues in the same signature spiky art-rock vein as [What’s in a] Name – and has the best (and funniest) opening verse you’ll hear this year:
I occupy a position in my love life / So taboo nobody believes me
Take myself out for coffee, go for walks in the country / Dress up all for me to the Tee
Coz It’s my dirty secret / Laugh at what’s been said
I don’t need a certain somebody / To make myself happy in bed
Whether that’s a completely earnest paean to self-love or a barely concealed dig at incels skulking in their basements hating woman isn’t clear, but that’s part of the beauty of the track – and of the album as a whole.
Micko’s lyrics are as sharp as his guitar work, but rarely are they capable of only a single reading. Like the great English lyricists of previous decades, his are words which are tricky to pin down, and which allow for multiple interpretations, but which always seem, somehow, to contain the exact right phrase to complement the (never less than excellent) music. No matter if it’s the relative fates of the rich and the poor, the joys of loving yourself or even a message from a cat making human noises(!), it’s all grist to the mill and all a joy to listen to.
Recommended – but that was never really in doubt, was it?
❉ Micko & The Mellotronics will play Hope & Anchor, Islington on Wed 20 December 2023: Link
❉ Stuart Douglas is an author, and editor and owner of the publisher Obverse Books. He has written four Sherlock Holmes novels and can be found on twitter at @stuartamdouglas