March 25, 2005

Momus "Otto Spooky"

Ah, Momus, you raconteur, you clever boy, you international pervert, it's been too long, hasn't it? It's been, what, three years since last you confounded me with your music, and here you are again, with a new offering and a new series of frustrations for yours truly. If you're not familiar with the man, you must stop reading this review right now, go to the bottom of this page and click on his website. It's quite possible the man is The Last Gadabout, the rare breed of intellect presumed extinct a century ago, and as he's such a character, his life is worth investigating. Go ahead, we'll wait for you.

See, wasn't it worth it?

Otto Spooky is his umpteenth record, and it's very much a Momus record. His writing is always excellent; he's a very vivid, colorful writer, and you can never fault him for that. Momus' main flaw is a bit complex. See, it's not that he can't sing, and it's not that he can't write a lovely melody, and it's not that he can't write witty lyrics. It's just that he can't seem to coordinate himself to do all three at once. Sometimes he just tries too hard, and it fails miserably. "Bantam Boys" is the best example of this. The lyrics are set in a royal court, the music is magdregal, but it's sung in an absurd style that's meant to sound like a castrati, but sounds utterly Miss Piggy. (Then again, that may be exactly what he wanted his character to sound like.) Then there's "The Artist Overwhelmed," which is a really beautiful lyric with a great vocal performance, but the music backing him is just horrid.

As frustration is par for the course with Mr. Momus, so too does Otto Spooky have its moments. "Belvedere" and"Your Fat Friend" are incredibly silly songs that produces a giggle with every listen, even though the songs are, respectively, about a man who leads children to the darker side of life and a sadly overweight woman who cannot see herself as others see her. Then there's the pompous epic "Cockle Pickers," which sounds a bit like Donovan on a Prog kick, which is so over-the-top that it's downright enjoyable, even if the subject matter is a bit bleak. Then there's "Jesus In Furs." This is perhaps my favorite song--it references Lou Reed in quite an intelligent, interesting way--even though it's an ideological attack on Mel Gibson and his beliefs, and I think Momus is way off base.

Momus is a one of a kind man, and he's sneaky, for Otto Spooky has grown on me, and my opinion of the record has changed since starting this review. While I still will admit to not being a big fan of his music--I much prefer his journaling and his column writing to his recordings--I can't say that I didn't enjoy Otto Spooky. It's pure Momus--and interpret that however you wish.

--Joseph Kyle

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