Album Review

Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something: Oh Really, What’s That Then? (Trapped Animal)

LP/CD/DL

Pre-order now/ Released 18th Oct 2019

9/10

Debut album from a band who cannot be pigeonholed: Psych, pop, glam rock, indie -well,  all of the above, and lead by a mercurial talent.  Ged Babey adopts the role of John the Baptist. 

Freeman is NOT ‘the new Bowie’. OK?  There will NEVER be another Bowie, but just occasionally an artist will emerge who has the same kind of beguiling ‘otherworldly’ feel about what they do: pop music, rock’n’roll, but with a whole lot more going on underneath the surface… and Jemma Freeman IS one such artiste.

This is NOT ‘the best album of the year’.... it will probably be my personal favourite of 2019 and a few hundred people might agree… once they have lived with it for a week, fallen in love with it and absorbed every cosmic particle of its greatness.

Track 1, Side 1. The opener. The appetiser. Is. Helen Is a Reptile. (She represents my fears). If you haven’t seen it already, here is the stunning horrorshow of a video, directed by the wonderful Frank Cutter (from Anarchistwood).

I saw the Cosmic Something live at the Loud Women Fest 4 and they came onstage and launched straight into this. It was stupendous. The best piece of onstage action I’ve seen for many years.

“I’m a Drag King when I perform. He’s called Jeff from Barnet…”  Jemma told me. He slides on his knees, squeezing out the solo’s, gurning in grease-paint and aviator shades.  Reptile is an I Wanna Be Your Dog/Telegram Sam amalgam and just such an immediate slice of fantastic glam-punk-grunge-nouveau.

“Helen is a Reptile is focused on suicidal idealisation, sleepless nights and obsession. It’s a dumb sounding song, heavy and direct it’s the result of years of insomnia.”

So perhaps you might expect a whole album like that?  Well, no. Not at all. That would be far too easy.

The second song is a keyboard (or keytar) lead song which sounds kind of like Cyndi Lauper singing a 1979 new wave electronic pop gem of the kind Mute or Some Bizarre used to release.

Freeman told Get In Her Ears,  “… my mum died when I had just turned 21 and this song tries to communicate across astral planes and ages, switching aspect between mother and child, present and past feelings, making sense of none of them and trying to hold on to it all.”

Three songs in and Hard Times is different again; a drum pattern which is a jazzy take on Buzzcocks Late For The Train and guitar work which would make Johnny Marr envious.

Black Rain is the best song PJ Harvey never wrote. Some great cello and violin to compliment the guitar and an eloquent and elegant song about depression one assumes.

What’s On Your Mind?  We read that phrase 100 times a day without even realising. We don’t even see it any more . It is in fainter ‘grayscale’ text in the ‘Create post’ box on Facebook. Inviting you in, to post your thoughts… What’s On Your Mind?  Repeated like a mantra over shuddering tremolo’d guitar and rolling drums becomes a pop masterstroke.  Siren-like yet vaguely sinister, it’s a insidious song which draws you in.

And that is only Side One.  The second side takes you deeper…   One song Jemma describes as  ‘having a kind of euphoric despair.’

Jemma Freeman and The Cosmic Something – started as a solo project but a band formed organically -the bassist Mark Estall is the owner of the Marketstall studio where they recorded, and drummer Hamilton Lee (who has an incredible CV) was drafted in. The two-person string section go under the name Mein Haus.

Musical reference points seem many and varied; PJ Harvey, the Doors, Arthur Lee’s Love…- The band are often described as psychedelic – but to me it seems more the Psychedelia of Cognitive Dissonance rather than deliberate derailment or lysergic exploration. And the band name?

“The cosmic something is the idea of a power bigger than ourselves, an undefined force, nature and the universe. I don’t have any specific religion or spirituality I believe strongly in the power of love and nature to heal and guide us. It’s indefinable so it’s sort of an underwhelming title for something truly awesome and lacking tangibility. We are all connected to quote Einstein “Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”

Jemma is articulate and smart, talented and driven. I asked them for some background information but the replies were so in-depth and personal, I’m publishing them separately as an interview.  There were ‘years of maladaptation and trauma….  It all sounds a bit depressing but my aim is to expose these difficult parts of myself and hopefully create a place where people can feel held momentarily. Where they can give air to those challenging ideas and feel less alone.

But,  “I don’t want the reasons behind the songs to dictate how any one listens to it really. There is always a slight ambiguity.  They write the guitar parts first and ” themes rise to the surface,  as a stream of consciousness”. 

Maybe the Bowie thing is only superficial; androgyny, alienation and the intro to Hard Times seeming to be a riff on Jean Genie.… but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it. Freeman has the potential to be a Bowie like figure for the future, as they evolve and make records even better than this, and given access to a bigger budget, they will.

For now, this is an album which anyone who values mere pop music as a life-affirming art-form and a salve for the soul needs to hear.  Between thought and expression lies a lifetime.

Album Launch is at SET Dalston, East London,  this Thursday 3rd Oct 2019 –  Facebook Event Page 

The Cosmic Something links – FACEBOOK  YOUTUBE  TWITTER  INSTAGRAM  SPOTIFY

All words by Ged Babey. Quotes in italics. 

 

 

 

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