❉ A manic musical sensibility married with vaudevillian theatrics and songs full of grotesque characters – it’s all here.
Imagine, if you will, a version of legendary art rock band Sparks, where Ron and Russell Mael have been replaced by an Irish bloke in a red military jacket of the sort I tend to picture the likes of John Lennon and Ray Davies in. Now chuck in a lyrical and musical sensibility which wouldn’t be out of place in MIDI-era Residents (more of that later!), and a visual sense which combines those Louisiana madmen with vaudeville, Mittel-European folk horror, seaside Punch and Judy shows and much else that I can’t place a very accurate finger upon.
Got that? Finally, add a Twitter feed packed with photographs of prehistoric birds bigger than men, pet cheetahs and horses with lion’s teeth.
Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?
Easier perhaps to show you, rather than keep trying to describe them – this is what they sound like…
Go and have a look and listen, and then come back.
It’s striking, isn’t it? Visually arresting, and lyrically both amusing and slightly creepy, The Ear Fairy is an excellent example of the approach taken across the band’s debut album, Teatime Terrors. Which is where we come back to The Residents, as promised earlier. Because – like that band’s seminal Gingerbread Man (wholly coincidentally also reviewed by me, not that long ago) – this album is populated by a distinct cast of characters, one per song, and each of them a grotesque in one way or other.
So, we have Banana Boy who finds his fingers turning into bananas whenever he does something slightly bad (like pushing a little girl off a swing); The Crabbit, a half crab, half rabbit who haunts anyone with a drink problem; the afore-mentioned Ear Fairy; and Guts the Cat (thankfully a name and not a description of some horrific slaughter!), who has an onion for a hat and sheds her skin and fur.
Elsewhere, the completely surrealistic nature of these songs gives way to slightly more serious topics – the dangers of Googling when you’re ill, conspiracy theories and the danger of (admittedly sentient) moulds – but only some extent; there’s always a humorous element and it never becomes po-faced. On Micky Mould in particular, you can’t miss the spectre of the much-missed Mick Lynch of fellow Irish band Stump in either lyric or vocal delivery.
I’ll leave the remainder of the population of the album for the listener to discover for themselves, but sufficient to say that each track is of similar quality, combining humour with often insightful social criticism, but always with a magical musical accompaniment of driven, almost manic keyboards, drums, guitar and organs.
I haven’t heard anything that sounds like this all year, which is a good thing in itself, but the bands I have heard previously which remind me a bit of Monsieur Pompier are all brilliant, which is in many ways even better.
❉ Monsieur Pompier’s Travelling Freakshow – Teatime Terrors (Cleopatra Records) available on limited edition 12″ vinyl and digital download: Purchase ‘Teatime Terrors’ Digital Album (Streaming + Download) via Bandcamp HERE. Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. ‘Teatime Terrors’ Limited Edition Vinyl LP (Record/Vinyl + Digital Album package image) shipping out on or around September 1, 2021.