Saturday, February 13, 2010

Popping with Pop Levi - The Return to Form Black Magick Party

If you’re born with a name like Pop Levi, as Pop Levi was, then chances are that you’re going to become a pop singer. But chances are that you are going to want to rebel against the expectations a bit too, and, if you do end up becoming a pop singer, you’ll probably be a fairly unconventional one.

And that’s exactly what English born Pop Levi did. Not that his passage into a music career was an easy one, despite learning the piano at three, singing in a gospel choir at seven, writing his first song at 12, and playing with a few semi-successful bands here and there as he grew up. He eventually launched his solo career in 2007 with his fantastically zany debut album The Return to Form Black Magick Party.

It’s an album that seems to dance and prance its way in and out of a whole heap of musical genres, affectionately poking fun at all of them, sampling bits of boogie here, bits of glam rock there, a touch of blues somewhere else, a bit of folk, and even a bit of experimental noise thrown in every now and then.

The Return to Form Black Magick Party bursts with energy – explodes with it, in fact, right from the opening ‘Sugar Assault Me Now”, which really does make you feel like you have just had some intravenous red cordial.

The songs bop and hop with dazzling, zesty sounds, heaps of instruments, most of them played by Pop, all tripping along to a solid beat that sweeps you up and swings you around. It makes you dizzy and then it makes you giggle.

The songs are full of catchy little hooks, but always with little twists in them, as if the music is almost a parody of itself at times. Pop Levi’s chipmunkesque voice gives you the vague feeling that it might all be just a dream – but it’s a brilliantly happy dream and you certainly won’t be in a hurry to wake up from it.

‘Blue Honey’ has some wonderful blues riffs chugging through it, while ‘Pick-Me-Up Uppercut’ sounds like it’s on amphetamines, out to score for the night, never mind who or what. ‘Skip Ghetto’ is quieter, slower and, with strummed guitar and meandering flute, could almost bring a tear to your eye, even while you find yourself wondering if there’s maybe a hint of mockery in its sweet pathos. But, then you’re back in the 50s, tarted up for the noughties, with the rock n roll swing of ‘Dollar Bill Rock’.

The strange and spacey ‘See My Lord’ morphs into the solid blues rock of ‘Hades’ Lady’, an ode to the femme fatale, an anthem to seediness, with a dark, jaunty 2/4 beat and jangling keyboards.

The album closes with the more wistful and poignant ‘From the Day That You Were Born’, like a song the Beatles might have written, had they grown older, and sadder, together.

The Return to Form Black Magick Party is an album that shows just how interesting pop can be, if you bend and stretch its edges a little. Its music is a little like a small child who wants to taste everything sweet and colourful on the table all at once and who, while becoming maybe a little hyperactive, and behaving a little oddly, as a result, nevertheless ends up being the life of the party.

Belated thanks to PBS for another great discovery.

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