The Scaramanga Six + Tim Smith

The new album from The Scaramanga Six, Cursed on Wrath Records, happily arrived during the week. It includes the wonderful single Autopsy of the mind, which has been spoken about here before, and is still available as a free download.

The Scaramanga Six - Autopsy of the mind (Wrath Records, single)

Top drawer power pop from the Ben Folds school by this Leeds 4-piece. A reflective piano intro gives way to a thudding backbeat, culminating in an acerbic chorus adorned by soaring backing vocals (they also make room to pay "fake brass" homage to Chicago's If you leave me now in the mid-section, a stand-out moment). Catchy as hell and they're giving it away for free.

The album has a number of memorable tunes and I'll come back to it in more detail once I've listened through to it for a bit longer. But the last song, Spent force, jumped straight out at me, primarily because it reminds me of prog-pop classic Eye in the sky by The Alan Parsons Project. Which not a lot of things do. And I like when they do. Have a listen and see if you agree. I'll lay money you'll be hooked on its twisting melody in no time.

Do the comparison here.

After reading the press release, I realised this album has a bit of a backstory. The band originally began recording the songs on it about five years ago with Tim Smith of Cardiacs. Some time through the sessions, in June 2008, Tim suffered a major stroke brought on by a heart attack (this has lead to the release of a fundraising tribute album, to help support his medical care, read more about that here). The Scaramanga Six decided to shelve their recordings and started working on new material and only returned to the "Tim Smith" songs last year, with a new producer. Cursed is the result and is dedicated to Tim Smith. Here's a random sample of Cardiacs, sounding like a (brilliant) cross between XTC and Frank Zappa. (In case you missed it, there's another recent Cardiacs connection in the shape of this William D. Drake album review.)

Finally, all this reminded me that two of The Scaramanga Six, brothers Paul and Steven Morricone, also run a side operation called Being 747 (love that name), which last year produced a wonderful "edu-pop" album called Amoeba to Zebra, detailing the evolution of life on Earth. If it sounds mad, it is, but in a very good way. Here were my thoughts on it at the time.

Being 747 - Amoeba to zebra (Wrath Records)

I could be wrong, but I'll hazard a guess that this album - from a Leeds band who are new to me - could be unique. It's a concept album about the evolution of life on earth (a "natural history musical", if you will), told through the medium of indie-pop, with detours into garage pop, power pop and folk rock, and narrative introductions and elaborations along the way. Each song is given a chapter title, from Chapter 1: The microscopic universe, in sequence through to Chapter 14: The power of speech. My own favourite is Chapter 9: Lords of the air, with its fizzing organ, and neither of whose stylish melody or sonorous lead vocal would have been out of place on Microdisney's Crooked Mile. A little reminiscient also at times of fellow north-east England pop surrealists Field Music - if they were into David Attenborough, that is. The terrific power pop belter Chapter 13: Life in the trees will appeal to XTC fans with its ba-ba-ba chorus and saxophone sub-plots. Chapter 6: Streamlined comes on like Devo, with post-punk urgency and self-regarding stance ("I have been streamlined"). Throughout, the whole thing is stirring, intriguing and hugely entertaining. Up with this sort of thing, we say.

Now, shake your backbone to this.


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