Go-Kart Mozart – Mozart’s Mini Mart
Released 23rd February 2018
New album by ex-Felt leader and Indie kingpin Lawrence’s current vehicle, the first since On The Hot Dog Streets was released in 2012, which coincided with the launch of the Lawrence Of Belgravia film……LTW’s Ian Canty finds himself lost in the mini-market, where he can shop happily……
We could talk about Lawrence, Felt, Denim etc until the cows come home, but actually for the most part the details have never been confirmed. His is a story substantially blurred by rumour, falsehoods, hearsay, second-hand accounts and embroidery. A figure of mystery no doubt, known solely by his first name (it is Lawrence Hayward in full isn’t it?), but one who allowed the access for a mirror to be applied to his life in the sometimes harrowing film Lawrence of Belgravia. His musical career has been one of ups, downs, sudden swerves just when you think you have worked him out and forever looking like he was finally going to make it until hopes were dashed late on for one reason or another. Becoming a constant presence on the Indie charts (when such things mattered) with Felt in the 80s, then taking a wildly divergent path with Denim in the 90s and finally onto Go-Kart Mozart on the cusp of the new millennium to today.
It is one of the curious anomalies of living in 2018 that Go-Kart Mozart’s music (on this record at least), which is so firmly rooted in retro styles of Electro Pop, Glam and Punk, sounds totally contemporary and relevant thanks to modern obsessions with analogue synths and big stomping beats. The yellow, blue and pink sleeve art is deliberately ultra-bright and upfront, practically shouting out at anyone looking at it. Perhaps there is an echo of the Cosmic Jokers’ Galactic Supermarket in the design and title? Anyway inside there is a declaration that this is “for the music fan with the short attention span” and a piece of “graffiti wall” art that features Lawrence’s likeness along with such insider incantations as “Bob Last Runs Fast” and “Vincent Crane Woz ‘Ere”. But also there is what possibly meant as a mission statement/comment of the jaded music business “I Must Be Rubbish”.
For all the emphasis on surface and throwaway Pop, there are little hints that undermine the effort to be disposable, like the note that “the playing of individual tracks out of sequence is forbidden”. It is the inconsistencies that make such a delight of Mozart’s Mini-Market and far from being today’s Pop that is swept away on the discovery of the next big thing, something very worthwhile and fun is on offer here. Given that caveat about the importance of running order, is to right to try and pull out highlights of the disc? Well it’s inevitable really, we’ll plough on but do it in strict order, which should please most everybody….
Beginning with the vocoder-aided dreamy electronica of Anagram Of We Sold Apes, listeners are quickly bought to a couple of the album’s undoubted gems. Though appearing on first sight to be “the life and soul of the party” Pop Music, serious subjects are dealt with a deftness that very few could aspire to on Mozart’s Mini-Mart. I severely doubt that this year will see any more accurate depictions of depression and modern day penury than When You’re Depressed and Relative Poverty.
When You’re Depressed is much more than just a perfect Pop song. Forget the “Pop” bit, this is simply perfection. A song that speaks the truth about a difficult subject in a natural and matter-of-fact way without coming across as flippant. I’ve suffered from depression myself in the past and the lyrics here are by someone that knows the pain you go through, the traits and thought patterns you fall into. It helps as well that this is an upbeat insistent monster of a track too, there’s no moping about on show, a breezy statement of fact and a ray of hope. Relative Poverty makes a valid point through simple repetition of the plight of “living on a tenner a day”, which becomes “please don’t take my tenner away” as it is realised that not only “The British top brass won’t do bugger all” they will almost certainly make things worse. There is a lot of truth and honesty in these songs.
After these two offerings. which could be intense if they were not allied to lovely melodies, Zelda’s In the Spotlight and Big Ship come. They are bright and fresh musically, with the former being a hymn to the fleeting nature of love and the later practically a nonsense effort, with a backing track like a synth-heavy Korgis. The following Nub-End In A Cab Of Coke includes a memorable line in “I’m a sardonic Lucifer with a fifty foot wing span”, but next there is a trip back to the darker side on A Big Black Hood On His Head. This one confronts the numbing effect on of all us that seeing death on TV news practically every night has, our connection with reality being blurred and empathy lost. Side one finishes with the chant of Facing The Scorn Of Tomorrow’s Generation, something we will all have to go through. This effort builds in a lovely way from just a piano and vocal to a full band climax.
On side two we’re ushered in by the promise of A New World and if the message of the words seems to be “this is really the same old world – nothing changes”, the music is kind of Pub Rock Electro. It is interesting that the sleeve features notes what the maker(s) was reading, watching and listening to. Among the records mentioned are Patrick D. Martin’s I Like ‘Lectric Motors and Karel Fialka’s Still Life album, this LP and particularly this track makes me think of Jona Lewie’s more synth-driven songs. Not a bad thing at all and the following I’m Dope goes a step further with to my ears a touch of early Ultravox! about it.
Crokadile Rockstarz continues the self-mythologizing of the “Brummie prophet” and this is pretty much the flipside of When You’re Depressed – optimism with a hint of doubt rather than pessimism with a little hope. Anyway the tune is a cracker, fast electronics like the Normal’s Warm Leatherette being played at 78 rpm. Knickers On The Line is the kind of daft but infectious chant-a-long this record is stuffed with, Glitter-drums and Punky guitar fleshing out the musical palette.
Next comes, Chromium-Plated We’re So Elated which uses a mob/yob chorus very effectively. This is a synthesised Rock & Roll song about prison not too far away from Borstal Breakout! The longest track on the album at just over 3 minutes, this would make a great but unusual Summer hit. There is an operatic tinge to the brief Man Of Two Sides which uses an analogy of a vinyl 7″ record to the mental state of the performer. Farewell To Tarzan Harvey is another chant-based effort, uses an 80s style Electro-Funk sound initially, before going into the kind of creamy ballad that is not too far away from Gilbert O’Sullivan, if he had access to 80s technology.
This one segues into the mighty A Ding Ding Ding Ding Dong, in which Lawrence re-casts the Small Faces’ Music Hall leanings for the 21st Century, a fairground waltz about rough times with a great melody, it is stunning. We then leave the Mini-Mart the way we came in with a short reprise of Anagram. We have shopped until we dropped and thirty four minutes and twenty seconds of magic have been safely bagged up and accounted for.
Well will 2018 finally be the year of Lawrence? There is more than enough evidence on Mozart’s Mini Mart to suggest that his ambition to be the first OAP Pop Star might not be just fanciful talk after all. Though concealed in plain sight beneath the purposefully gaudy surface presentation and style-over-substance camouflage, there are songs here that no-one else would be able to write, real insights into aspects of life not usually examined in “Pop”. On the sleeve-note among a mini-biog lies the claim “I am a Pettifogger”. Someone (a lawyer mainly) who practices deception or trickery and there is no doubt an element of this in Go-Kart, but it is more pretending to be facile while imparting wisdom, rather than the other way around. Of course, given that statement it is entirely possible I have completely missed the point of the songs or added meaning of my own that weren’t the intention of the writer. But this is my take on things.
From what I can work out make no mistake, Lawrence is back at the top of his game and this album is endlessly enjoyable. Light and bouncy on the surface, but with hidden (and not so hidden) depths. Sort of the opposite of what may have been intended, but perhaps this is inevitable given the talent invovled. One thing is for sure though, Mozart’s Mini-Mart will be still entertaining us when this year’s flashes in the pan are mere distant memories. A triumphant return in style.
Go-Kart Mozart are on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here