There could be no doubt in the mind of anyone hearing the output of Momus to this point, that Jacques Brél was a considerable influence. This was fully acknowledged in his interviews and discussions at the time and led to the release of this EP of covers. The three songs are not based on the “traditional” translations of the original songs, and have been revised to match Momus’ own concerns. It would also be the last release on él records before a much heralded move to Creation.
Nicky: The original of this was a parodic and satirical song about the industry of fame and celebrity, and Jacques mocked himself mercilessly in it. In this update Momus sings about his own image, in the past and future. There’s a real humour and even warmth to “Nicky” matched by Momus’ production and use of synthesizer. The character in the lyrics is arrogant, but also mocks his own arrogance, in a knowing, intelligent and well paced song. It’s funny as well, with little musical jabs at David Bowie and Cliff Richard.
Don’t Leave: Which is a re-translation of what is more commonly known as “If You Go Away”, but is now much more devastating. It more closely follows the original lyrics and ends with Momus wishing to be no more than a shadow, under the bed of his lover, watching her happy with others, being a “shadow of a shadow, the shadow of your man”. The subtle electronics behind this unsettle the listener into truly feeling the void of despair projected.
See a Friend in Tears: Momus intended the re-translation of this to reflect the fact that Brél was dying of cancer when he wrote it, and to include his musings of mortality when approaching death. The lyrics are accordingly heartbreaking, and while they describe hopeless and immutable facts of existence, there is some hope spread within. It’s also quite depressing how little has changed since this was written, and as I write this how relevant it all still is:
“So men are still at war in Ireland For certain songs and certain dates The tender gave way to the firebrand And Europe gave way to the States”
This isn’t one of my favourite Momus songs or one of my favourite Brél songs: it’s one of my favourite songs full stop. Yes, there are two lines in the song that – should you sing it now – would definitely need changing, but how can you deny the impact of:
“It’s true our cities are exhausted Made by and for the middle aged Our weakness gave them more than force did We thought that love could cure a toothache”.
Both the album and this EP brought Momus to the attention of Alan McGee at Creation, and he signed up with them. This brought a bigger budget and the option of a full band, which were implemented on the next album. Before that though, an final EP was released on Creation, called “Murderers, The Hope of Women”.