Mary Byker & Noko Present: Am I Dead Yet? (wire-sound)
Two Apollo 440 astronauts, (a former Gaye Byker on Acid and the guitarist with Luxuria & the reformation line up of Magazine) make a stunning, cinematic, philosophical but tongue-in-cheek opus about love, life & death in the 21st Century technological maze. Ged Babey is angry, ill, ugly as sin but very impressed as he asks himself Am I Dead Yet?
Leonard Cohen is Dead.
David Bowie is Dead.
Scott Walker is Dead.
John Barry is Dead.
Dick Dale is Dead.
Serge Gainsbourg is Dead.
Do you remember the Sonic Stealth Orchestra remixes of various Manic Street Preachers singles circa ‘Everything Must Go’? Well, that was Noko (and friends).
Johnny Cash is Dead.
Keith Flint Is Dead.
Lou Reed Is Dead.
Sylvia Plath is Dead.
Lee Hazlewood is Dead.
John McGeoch is Dead.
Do you remember Luxuria, and how, at the time, and even now, they were the greatest thing you had ever heard…? Noko was the guitarist/co-writer with Devoto.
Oscar Wilde is Dead.
Andy Warhol is Dead.
Ernest Hemingway is Dead.
Marilyn Monroe is Dead.
George Orwell is Dead.
Jimi Hendrix is Dead.
Elvis is Dead
Gaye Bykers On Acid were a band who it was a lot of fun to be in, I imagine… But not much fun to actually listen to … They had a singer called Mary Mary (presumably he was quite contrary). Decades on, after lots of shouting, gurgling and hollering… he has ‘discovered his voice’… and it’s a pleasant, if slightly sinister, velvety croon.
Ian Curtis is Dead.
Edith Piaf is Dead.
Salvador Dali is Dead.
Rowland S Howard is Dead.
Joe Meek is Dead.
Laura Palmer is Dead
Magenta Devine is Dead.
Jean Baudrillard Is Dead
God is Dead.
Marcel Duchamp Is Dead
Art is Dead.
Gene Krupa Is Dead
Pete Shelley Is Dead.
The soundscape is wide-screen retro-cinematic. The mood is distinctly glass-half-empty, with songs lamenting the failure of technology to save us from ourselves. Mary singing over a lush Lynchian laptop orchestra, replete with the sweet vocal harmonies of Noko and the sumptuous twang of his vintage Gretsch White Falcon buried deep in a canyon of spring reverb. It’s this shared love for the dramatic, the cinematic and the smell of the popcorn, that sets the tone for their new work together in Am I Dead Yet?
Charles Bukowski Is Dead
Punk is Dead.
Mike Pratt is Dead.
Truth Is Dead.
Albert Finney is Dead
Gordon Banks is Dead
John Hurt is Dead.
Alan Vega is Dead.
Music Journalism is Dead.
Am I Dead Yet? ask Mary and Noko …. Hell No!
(This is me,,,) Imagine if Nick Cave wrote a Bond Theme…
Imagine if Leonard Cohen did an album with John Barry with guest appearances by Dick Dale…
Imagine if Ennio Morricone scored a brand new album by Pulp intended as a soundtrack to a new season of Black Mirror…
This is the kind of thing you get with Am I Dead Yet? Big, bold, cinematic maudlin crooning with a laptop orchestra and bongos. Phil Spector versus Joe Meek soundclashes with Neil Diamond on vocals …. Songs which are a profound and prophetic analysis of the human condition and the manners and etiquette of social media and its destruction of the Self…. only its a bit tongue in cheek and a bit knowingly cheesy, and it’s about an aesthetic, rather than being too pompous.
It’s a bit like an imagined Devoto in Vegas. If you know what I mean… or maybe that’s just me.
A quick track by track run down in case you are not already intrigued to the point of impulse-buy.
Leaving Me Behind
Slow and low. Whistling. Melodrama and crooning with twangy guitar reverberations. The Bad Seeds play a Bond Theme in the style of the Walker Brothers.
A big ball of melodramatic cheese but fantastic nonetheless. Magazine- style bass-line, a stately pace… best lyric on the album – about being lonely in a cyber-crowd… big crescendo’s.
Harpsichord and sweeping Manics type melody, Spanish guitar, a snaking synth and glam references: Grab yourself a souvenir-ir-ir-ir from all your Golden Years – Marc Almond would be ideally suited to sing this.
Joe Meek Shall Inherit the Earth
Telstar stylophone, Twangy solo. Great musically – but lyrically a bit too obvious and references to ‘nuts in padded cells’ not particularly cool or sympathetic.
Spector Versus S.P.E.C.T.R.E with Sonic Stealth Strings. Baudrillard Motown and could almost be a Devoto Song from Magic Murder or Jerky Versions.
People Are Dangerous
Johnny Cash twang. Nick Cave delivery, Morricone backing – pretty good but sounds like Dave Vanian trying to do a version of People Aint No Good.
Wasted On Me
A sinister waltz, Leonard Cohen meets Serge Gainsbourg Uptown. Some great lyrics about a females ‘cruel choreography’.
Electronic warbles like a robot birdsong from the Far East. A bossa nova nursery rhyme about cyber-paranoia. Sounds a bit Beast Box with added Beach Boys backing. A massive hit in a parallel universe.
Master of Disguise
From slo-build to Overblown – I can imagine a Zombie Robbie Williams performing this to a mutant crowd and it going down well. Could be a hit for a boy band or J-pop group. I Hate songs where the singer addresses the listener as ‘My friend’.
A love song to simulacra. Starts a bit Laibach. Steals a vital chord-change from In The Ghetto. Cheese, but really great, delicious cheese. I lie on the ground and stare into Space, look at the stars form the shape of your face.
Thanks For Sharing
Clever stuff. A electronic mosquito flits in from a Morricone score, followed by a Mariachi trumpet.. Another Neil Diamond style epic.
Fans of cinema scores, Luke Haines ‘concept albums’, Pulp, Barry Adamsons recent work and Go-Kart Mozart will probably love this album. Its clever, funny, stylish and sounds perfect, sonically speaking. Aesthetically pleasing and will put a smile on your face despite its attempts at epic magnificent gloom.
The Oscar goes to…. Noko and Mary…. for Am I Dead Yet? (Hell No!)
All words Ged Babey