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Bob Drake – Lawn Ornaments

ReR Megacorp

Bob Drake - Lawn OrnamentsThis is literally bonkers, and monkeys with your expectations in all the right ways, each song swerving from its original starting point in a genre-flinging bewilderment of mood swings (at least four, if not more, times within the confines of each song). Quite a trip, starting with an unassuming country tinge before suddenly going off-road with a rough dose of Eugene Chadbourne-style fisted frets and bouldering percussions, then whipping the carpet clean away moments later in smooth Beach Boys crooning or winkle-picking tremolo lushness.

It’s a great technique that really emphasises the drama, the story underpinning it all with a zaniness akin to Spirit’s Potato Land. A warped tale centring around an errant meerkat (that the pet shop people were usually glad to see go) meticulously and colourfully illustrated in the accompanying booklet, with lyrics too, helping you make sense of this breezy experience as well as opening up plenty of singalong opportunities.

The liner notes state that there’s nothing virtual going down; everything’s for real, which makes the sounds here even more remarkable. How did they get that brass section to sound like an amphetamine-fed Salvation Army falling out of the sky on a massive bungee, diving into a bucket of skewered rhythmics and mock operatics. Zapping back in full harmonic mode, all Sixties Egyptian eyeliner and psychedelic lamp-shades swinging from introspection to full-bodied explosions of exuberant colour.

What’s not to love? It’s got Barrett-esque fairground moments choked with Cardiacs-like noir-ness. The comedic burns — all off-kiltery, wonky pop akin to the dope-eyed vibes of, say, Olivia Tremor Control — that whoosh the curtains in Zappa apostrophes and blaring trombones. Suddenly things clatterclast; dive into a playful stage-show interlude (it’s the way it rolls). The narrator exclaims, “My goodness, the trumpet player has vanished in a puff of smoke!” — to which a Citizen Kane voice describes a twisted and charred trumpet clattering to the floor. “Who could have propitiated such a crime?” — followed by a sudden gasp of “Look at that meerkat grinning in the corner,” leading to a noisy Buster Keaton stampede for the door.

Such amateur dramatics are commonplace here, effectively unhinged, nestled like jack-in-a-boxes throughout the musical fayre. They’re quickly replaced with energetic chugs of frets eating away a Rocket From The Crypt flounce, descending in a Kinks-like burble before cutting itself into a Beatles bowl-like haircut, dump-trucked in favour of a weirded Gilbert and Sullivan barbershop.

Yep, it’s a firefly of originality, lunging from experimental to off-centre pop at a drop of a hat, not afraid to butcher its super-sweet catchiness in plenty of unruly behaviour, always whipping up a dust storm behind itself. A lucky-dip oeuvre that brings to mind fond Bonzo Dog memories.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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