Firstly, some news…

Famous for Fifteen People: The Songs of Momus 1982 – 1995

I am delighted to announce that a book of this blog will be available from Zer0 Books on 29th October 2021 and for pre-order before that. Famous for Fifteen People: The Songs of Momus 1982 – 1995 will be available from all the usual online stores and as an e-book. If enough people buy it from the various sites where it will be available (and I will provide links!) then a second volume covering 1996 – 2005 will surely follow.

Writing up the blog as a manuscript has taken a bit of time up over the lockdown, and I have massively expanded the earlier reviews and updated each album entry, so the book should be worth obtaining for all of you.

So, yes, this current album review has taken me a very long time to complete. So sue me. Actually, don’t. I really don’t want to have to write songs about you all. You wouldn’t like them and you’d probably ask for your $1000 back.

Famous for Fifteen People includes the following endorsements amongst others:

Everything goes in cycles: during the 2010s I contributed
regularly to Chris O’Leary’s Bowiesongs blog, and expressed a
vague wish that one day somebody might make a similar study
of Momus. Well, that’s what John Robinson is doing, with an
extraordinary vigour and thoroughness, in his blog Fifteen
People. So far he’s only halfway through the prolific Momus
discography, but I’m amazed at the quality of his work: it’s
teaching me things even I didn’t know, or had forgotten! It’s also
surprisingly funny. 2020 is a bit of a milestone year for Momus:
my record about COVID-19, Vivid, is released in July, on the
same day as Farrar, Straus and Giroux publish Niche: A Memoir
in Pastiche, my autobiography. All this is kindling interest in my
work as it’s developed through 4 decades. It would be great to
think there was something following, a solid, comprehensive
and entertaining account of my songs by someone other than
me. Called – oh, I don’t know – Famous for Fifteen People: The
Songs of Momus, by John Robinson.”
Nicholas Currie (Momus) is a singer/songwriter with over 30
studio albums, and author of numerous novels and cultural
writings, including his recent memoir Niche (Farrar, Straus and
Giroux, 2020)


“Momus is a unique and important artist. Fifteen People puts his
body of work into context in time and related to the surrounding
culture. It is insightful, provokes re-listening and conversation
about the work.”
Duglas T. Stewart, Singer, songwriter, producer, scriptwriter
and leader of the band BMX Bandits


“Fifteen People puts a microscope to a titanic talent.”
Anthony Reynolds, Musician, journalist and writer, leader of
the bands Jack and Jacques


And to to the business at hand…

Stars Forever Disc One
Following the out of court settlement made with Wendy Carlos, both Momus and Le Grand Magistery were somewhat out of pocket. To fill a $30,000 dollar hole, and at the suggestion of Matt Jacobsen, Momus decided to fund the label with a concept he termed “patronage pop”. The concept of a patron, one who pays for an artist to work, dates back centuries. In his essay on the subject “On Patronage”, Momus describes the end of patronage in the industrial revolution, as the “skilled artisans” of the baroque era were replaced by technology.

The concept of an artist becoming more nebulous therefore, he describes a disconnect between the creative mind and the commercial artifice that surrounds it. Whereas in that era of patronage the massively skilled painter or sculptor would be cognisant of the commercial value of their work, and happy to price it, the “artist” of the 90s: musically speaking, Thom Yorke, Kurt Cobain or Richey James, seemed to work above concerns of “value” and “price” despite the obvious fact that only the machinery of commerce allowed them to ply their trade: and a trade it is. This disconnect Momus describes as the reason for their alienation, and in two of those cases, furnished part of their coffin.

The poets of the 18th Century would gather subscribers for their work and print it when they had raised enough money, or pledges. Their system predicted precisely how artists are working today, and Momus also points out that the commercial aspect of art is merely a case of putting a value on your own work. Once again, Momus accurately predicts how the internet age will change aspects of art and the way it is funded:

“The information age is going to make everybody more like an artist — individual, creative, hands on, proactive, responsible — and therefore artists will no longer be special, different and isolated. They will be like the rest of us, approachable, malleable, responsive.”

Reacting to criticisms of Stars Forever and its perceived commercialism, he says:

“…there is something pluralistic and democratic about this new version of patronage; that it depends totally on the direct contact an artist can now have with his audience through the internet.”

So to save Le Grand Magistery, Momus put a proposal on his website: for his next album he would write a series of 30 musical portraits, each sold to an individual or organisation for $1000, in the Analog Baroque style. The thirty slots were filled in two weeks, with a waiting list in case anyone dropped out. The list altered somewhat over the production but in the end, a final list of thirty enabled Stars Forever to become a double album, the second disc also including the winners of the Momus Parody Karaoke Competition and an interview about Stars Forever.

For those who opted-in, Momus provided a list of questions to elicit interesting facts about the subjects, as well as requesting images:

  • Have you rebelled against someone else’s dreary expectations of your life, and become something more unexpected?
  • What in your life can you point to and say, like Frankie, ‘I Did It My Way’?
  • What creative achievements are you most proud of?
  • If there was one event in your life which really shaped you, made you the person you are today, what would it be?
  • If you had to make a rap song boasting about your irresistible charm and sexiness, how would you describe yourself?
  • Have you ever made material sacrifices because of your integrity?
  • Describe a public personality who exemplifies everything you’d like to be yourself, then another public personality who incarnates everything you’d least like to be.
  • If you were an Egyptian pharoah and had to be buried with a few key objects to take to the next world, what would they be?
  • Do you have a favourite joke, quotation or proverb?
  • What’s your favourite portrait (it can be a song, a painting, a film, anything)?

With this data Momus then buried himself away for Spring of 1999 to complete drafts of the 30 pieces, all of which had to be cleared by their patrons, with only one – for Paulo Rumi – requiring rewriting, as we shall see, and at least one never receiving clearance. The portraits were a mixture of fact and fancy, compliment and observation, good and bad, mixed with humour and serious rumination where it seemed appropriate. Unsurprisingly, a good number of the patrons were friends or already known to Momus, and so his own opinions on the patrons shimmer under the surface. The variation in character of the thirty patrons also had the beneficial effect of forcing variety into the musical styles and themes chosen by the composer, so instead of the 30 slight variations on “Old Friend, New Flame” one might have dreaded, the album actually achieves a level of heterogeneity unmatched in his work to date.

Working in his London flat, Momus describes his working process on his website, surrounded by machinery including a Mac SE30, yet preferring to record lyrics in a diary. The first song written is for Jeff Koons the artist, who did not as such pay for his song, but was issued it as a loss leader. It takes two attempts to write Jeff’s song, and no doubt there are aborted ideas for many of these songs hiding somewhere. The second song is Karin Komoto, and described as like My Bloody Valentine. Momus describes time as moving slowly, changing around him, as he works on the album, as if he himself is a star in orbit many light years away. He wonders if the album mmight ironically make him a star himself. The project seems to devour him, he describes his life as compressed:

“The only reason I have the time and concentration to write 40 songs in little over a month is that I barely have a life outside of this. Ask my friends, ask my lovers. They’ll say ‘Nick Who?'”

He believes he is writing with “kid gloves on” and investing more of himself into the songs. As a side effect, he also describes what he has found to be a typical Momus fan:

“What’s becoming clear is that all my fans are gay, or Japanese, or people in the Japanese or American music industries, or other artists. There are no ‘normal’ people in there at all. Nobody who cried at Titanic, nobody who bought the new Stereophonics album ‘because it sounds a bit like Oasis’.”

He also comments on the lack of activity at his website, and suggests people discuss the album at the relevant newsgroup alt.fan.momus, which Jyoti Mishra (White Town) informed him about. The archive of this is still available on Google Groups and from early in 1999 and onwards you can read comments from individuals such as Count Vronsky, and by the end of the year various patrons of Stars Forever, including Miles Franklin and Robert Dye, and later Maf. This becomes the first large scale and consistent community of Momus fans. Momus’ own statement:

“I won’t be contributing anything directly to alt.fan.momus (that would be a bit too Courtney Love of me)”

lasted until roughly August 1999 before he started replying and contributing, and he has never stopped contributing to Momus fan communities in one form or another, although the alt.fan.momus newsgroup itsef died a slow death over the noughties as Momus moved onto LiveJournal and ClickOpera, and the fans followed.

Interest in the new and unusual album led to articles in Spin, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Melody Maker and the Scotsman, as well as lively debate online about the merits, ethics and potential of such a project. We will look at reviews after describing the plethora of songs on the double album.

The album was released in August 1999 in the UK, US, Germany and Spain. In the UK on Cherry Red/Analog Baroque as the second CD on that imprint, and in the US on Le Grand Magistery, in Germany on Bungalow, and as a single disk promotional sampler as well. I bought the UK version: the cover image is composed of a grid of painted green lines over a light background, so that the cover looks entirely and deceptively green, with a sketch of Momus in a baroque wig in front of an easel. He holds a palette and a brush, and is looking at us, the viewer and consumer, as he creates his portrait of us. There are blobs of yellow and red paint on the palette, and over this is painted Momus in white in a modern font, somewhere between Countdown and Westminster, and underneath is “stars forever” in a baroque font. Within the inlay are lyrics and explanations of the concept and the karaoke competition. The US cover instead shows a list of the Stars down the left hand side of the front cover and has a line drawing of Momus’ face, with a palette of colours running around his head and numbers indicating a paint by numbers task. The Spanish cover is more abstract, sixties influenced, showing semicircles and a circle of colour, related to the palette images, and the sampler disk shows a detail from the painting Momus modelled the original cover on, a painter before an easel. Portraiture, patronage and artistic styles from lost eras: a wikipedia of details matching the sheer variety of detail within the lyrics and music.

The track listing differs depending on the version you have as well, the UK version programmed by Momus and the US version by Matt Jacobsen. The initial idea seems to have been to split the “corporate” portraits onto one disc and the individual ones onto another, however in both cases this fell by the wayside. The UK version is considered the official one by Momus, so I will go by this. The first disk contains songs 1-19, the second contains 20-30, the eight winning parodies and a talk by Momus about the album Stars Forever interspersed with excerpts.

Other Music
The UK version opens with this, the US version with The Minus 5. Both songs could be seen as describing the content of the album in general and are good choices as openings, however I think the drama flowing through the Minus 5 track makes it a more fitting song to have towards the end of the album, and it makes points which are confirmed aptly with the song which follows it (“Noah Brill“). “Other” Music is as accurate a description of Stars Forever (and Momus’ output in general) as you could wish for, and briskly informs the listener what is to follow.

Other Music was a physical music store located at 15 East 4th Street New York, opened in 1995 and closing in 2016. They sold experimental, left-field, unusual and underground music including the likes of Momus, categorised by feeling, so for instance there was a section called La Decadanse which was where you would find Momus. As he describes, it was run by people who “know and care” about music. An important space where people met and bands were formed, lost to the increasing trends of streaming music and social media interaction in preference to reality. A documentary chronicling the importance of the space was released in 2020, directed by husband and wife team Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller, who met at the store.

The track itself opens with a harpsichord and toybox techno beat that could easily be on the Little Red Songbook, and over which a multi-tracked Momus describes the type of music they supply, the chords ascending, a statement of bold intent.

“Mad music, sad music
Totally bad and crazy music
Brave music, strange music
Mathematical lava music
Music from the roots
Not from corporate suits
Stand out from the crowd
Play quiet music very, very loud”

The second verse adds further instrumentation, a synth squiggle and a brass sound, the vocal delivery more urgent:

“Difficult music, liveable music
Lickable, hummable, kickable music
Love music, fear music
We got some here music!
Retro-futuristic dandy music
Exploding plastic candy music
So amusing”

The next section again has the chords used rising, delivering intensity and laying emphasis in timing on the business message, physical and internet addresses:

“Brother music
Sister music
Lover music
Other Music
Number 15 East 4th Street

Kinky music
Stinky music
Cutey pinky Japanese music
othermusic dot com
Music you’ll want to suck on!”

The music breaks down here, and Momus breathily intones the repeated refrain below over a repeated keyboard riff and synth effects, sci-fi sounds and the collapse of rational music as we know it, which is exactly what we want and what Other Music delivers.

“Other Music
Suck music
Other Music
Fuck music…”

Other Music’s site remains open as a mail order service, to promote the documentary and to record the existence and passing of an indie music haven and talent hub.

Tinnitus
Tinnitus was a Boston area DJ called Paul Cheevers, a fan of Brian Eno, ambient music and its hip-hop flavoured variant “illibent”. Tinnitus considered himself to be a cyborg and was a fan of video games. He is now a meditation and mindfulness teacher.

The song Momus has composed for him begins as a Scottish jig based loosely on “The Campbells are Coming“, the clan song of the Campbells. There is a drone note imitating a bagpipe, and a violin sound to play the main melody after the verse. Momus posits an imaginary visit by Disney to shoot a Braveheart style film using CGI, and imagines a rival auditioning for a role, but stymied by Tinnitus.

“When Disney came to Scotland
Shooting ‘Pixel Claymores’
I wanted the role of the rotten
Villain Rob McMurdo”

The violin sound plays now, with electronic squalling screaming across the glen.

“But Tinnitus auditioned first
Some weird DJ from Boston
He’s from WZBC
And he doesn’t look much like a Scotsman”

The next verse references the nursery rhyme “Rub a dub dub” which lists the three random professions, Momus adds three more (if bastard is indeed a profession outside of the music industry). A cheever is, from the etymology of the name, a goat, or goatherd, or generally a temperamental person, and of course Tinnitus’ real surname.

“The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker
The weaver, the cheever, the bastard
Damn it and blast ’em, they said they had cast them
And swept me under the carpet”

A battle between the rivals takes place digitally, fighting with those pixel claymores on Tekken, and on “90.3” FM, cunningly inserting the frequency should anyone be in the vicinity to listen in. The sound of swords clashing and Scottish yelling is inserted for the fight scene.

“Tinnitus replied in a synthesised voice
When I dared him to fight me at Tekken
The clash of our claymores rang through the glens
And on 90.3 FM”

The rival wins the fight, it seems, and the resulting footage is shown on TV, with a tape loop effect symbolising the end of the battle.

“And was it for real or was it a dream
When I buried my steel in his belly?
Tinnitus fell, the director yelled
‘Cut!’ then they put it on telly”

We cut to the film shoot, where the rival is waiting to be imaged: their name is Winterblossom.

“The Campbells are coming, I’m long in the tooth
Was it because my hair is all gone?
I sit on the set in a sporran and kilt
My name is Winterblossom”

The rival has gall (an abnormal plant growth or fungus) and wormwood (a plant considered to be hallucinogenic and poisonous in large quantities) under his tongue. “Bonnie” Prince Charlie is the historical figure, the pretender to the British throne who was defeated and fled from Scotland.

“Gall and wormwood under my tongue
Bonnie Prince Charlie’s an arsehole
My friends are dead, it’s cold and wet
My name is Rob McMurdo”

Both rivals could utter the final lines, as revenge is promised. The song ends with a further tape loop unspooling, and a sudden stop. In reality, Tinnitus would have won the battle of course, it is hard to see a cyborg musician being defeated in any universe.

“I’ll no be taken for granted
And I’ll no be turned away
I’ll be back!”

3D Corporation
In Japanese culture, a “jimusho” is a music/entertainment management company. These corporations control and care for their artists as if a family, albeit a controlling and contractually bound family. During the 1990s the jimusho looking after Kahimi Karie and Cornelius was 3D Corporation, and her handler was Fumiko Masaki. 3D Corporation were housed in the concrete and glass Alfa Spin building in Ebisu, West Tokyo. Momus described the ground floor of 3D Corporation as a garage, actually housing a sports car. The first floor was full of Apple Computers and trendy furniture for interviews and meetings, and decorated with Planet of the Apes posters. The top floor featured a recording studio and many impressive instruments such as Moogs and Maestro drum machines, and a view of the Meguro river and Shibuya district. In 1995 Kahimi went to live in Paris, and Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada), did not want to leave Tokyo, in the end moving on to date an old bandmate of Kahimi’s called Takako Minekawa. Momus used the 3D recording studio once in 2001, to record “Frilly Military” with Kahimi, his last work with her.

The music is a slow jam, a deliberate contradiction and confusion of the corporate with the personal: asking the question of whether a company which has a specific outlook and philosophy, and is therefore corporate, could still be human and capable of love. Could there be a company that you could fall in love with, so that rather than working all night, you would see it as staying up all night loving them? The first verse explores this and drops in the real name of one of their major artists. The keyboard sounds bubble, watery and deep, gentle and loving themselves.

“Did you ever fall in love with a corporation
Did you ever work all night cos you love your job?
Did you ever scan the skin of a tower in Tokyo
See Keigo Oyamada hunched over Moogs at 2 o’clock?”

The chorus is uplifted, and simple: emphatic statement of a clear corporate truth.

“3D Corporation
You’re the corporation I love”

The second verse describest their relatively unusual working conditions – remember this is before the era of Google offices and the hipster working environments mocked by Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley – and mentions both Kahimi’s handler and the 3D Corporation boss Mr. Oka.

“Did you ever sit and work in a room of neon
With Fumiko Masaki and Oka-San all smiles?
Pink and white and blue and beautiful luminous neon
Friendly curvy squeaky completely astonishing sounds”

3D Corporation
You’re the corporation I love”

The song ends with a false start of a third verse, pointing the listener towards another 3D artist:

“Watch this video of the gorgeous Kahimi Karie”

Momus did love 3D Corporation, and it sounds like a pretty wonderful working environment for the time and for the industry – it sounds like the company that Creation should have been.

Akiko Masuda
The graphic design company Mars Art Lab was Akiko and her boyfriend Hibiki Tokiwa. They designed covers for Denki Groove frontman Yoshinori Sunahara. They released a compilation album Pop Tics in 1999. They had a store in Harajuku called “Animal of Airs” selling their own designs of t-shirt and various pop ephemera. The song begins with a harsh riff played on keyboard, fast drum beats and Momus rapping over the emerging synth sounds, building the percussion as it goes on. The song as a whole owes a debt to Ca Plane Pour Moi. The first verse and rap is in Japanese, it describes Akiko’s orange hair and green clothing, describes her as a dancing cat and the ruler of graphical design in the trendy area of Harajuku. Or something like this. I don’t know, I don’t speak Japanese. The following hook describes her chilli hair and mentions the shop.

“Daidai iro no wakusei no ue de
Midori no zubon wo haki
Neko no yo-u ni odoru
Trendy na Harajuku no
Anata wa graphic design no
Ohsama to jou ou sama
In trendy Harajuku

You’re no square with your chilli chilli hair
Akiko Masuda, Animal of Airs”

A further swirling low pitched synth sound is added for the following verse, which I believe lists items found in the shop, the pop ephemera which is for sale, along with the clothing and t-shirt lines.

“Supercar baseball Abraham Lincoln
Newton John stripe individual projection
801 orange planet tape recorder vinyl bear
And the shirts we wear
Transonic Florida cheerleader set
Ballpoint boyfriend sticker club pet”

A higher keyboard sound comes in with a melodic counterpoint to the bass lines. Another verse lists further pop culture influences on their work. Texas Instruments were most famous perhaps for making calculators, Speak and Spell was a well known learning toy of the time. Beams Works is a Japanese fashion label: was there a playset based on a Beams Works shop? This page suggests so: http://geo.d51498.com/Playtown-Bingo/5991/PAPER/LIST6/pa-BEAMS.html

“Mastercard, Visa Farrah Fawcett Major
Texas Instruments Super Speak and Spell
Beams Works Playset astrolube superturf
T Shirt beach ball Pocket Monster kewpie Doll
Down the stairs Animal Of Airs
Ooh we oh, here we go”

The work of Mars Art Lab is addressed now. Denki Groove were the band led by Yoshinori Sunahara, and his albums Sounds of the 70s and Take off and Landing (which was a concept album about an underground airport) had covers designed by Mars Art Lab. Studio Voice and Barfout were magazines which ran articles about the design company.

“Denki Groove
Yoshinori Sunahara
Sounds of the 70s
Take Off And Landing
Mars Art Lab, Animal Of Airs
Trendy trendy retro 70s chairs
Studio Voice had no choice
Barfout magazine did a feature on your dreams”

There is a drum flourish here and the song steps up another gear. Momus describes Akiko in a mixture of analogy and clinical detail.

“Akiko Masuda from the land of Buddha
Used to be a geisha, used to be a spider
Got a cutie face, got a cutie mania, media junky
Born on October 31st 1970
Akiko Masuda, Artcore funky
Ooh we oh, here we go”

There is an instrumental break here, with further synth sounds and effects dropped in, 8-bit and analog. The song breaks down for the next verse, down to the beat alone, which repeats the Japanese text. The instruments return for the final verse, and the track
then ends abruptly.

“Daidai iro no wakusei no ue de
Midori no zubon wo haki
Neko no yo-u ni odoru
Trendy na Harajuku no
Anata wa graphic design no
Ohsama to jou ou sama
In trendy Harajuku

Akiko Masuda
From the land of Buddha
From the land of judo
From the land of sumo
From the land of Harajuku
Here at the centre of all known trends
The known world ends
You’re no square with your chilli chilli hair”

The fast pace of the music and lyrics in this song is an attempt to mimic the fast paced life and thoughts of Akiko herself, the lyrics are rushed and frenetic, seeming hardly to scan correctly as if they race at the same speed as her thoughts, or the same speed as Harajuku itself.

Stefano Zarelli
An Italian musician and writer who in 1999 was settled in Edinburgh with his girlfriend Sophie. His answers suggested a clash between positive and negative forces in his character, literalised in the narrative of the song as a discussion between an angel and a devil, fighting for his soul. Zarelli had, coincidentally, been in a band in Italy who had written a similarly themed song. The song is bubblegum pop: a burbling synth plays a riff and Momus sings the verse in two voices, a higher pitched angel and a lower pitched, although cheerful sounding, devil. The song seeks to describe the contradictions which we all have, the rift between action and intention.

In the first verse for instance, his curious, investigative nature leads him to travel widely, but the devil points out that there is an ulterior motive to the movement. The last line here has a word distorted and covered by effects. Google Translate says the characters used here are Chinese and mean “drunken”, which raises questions of consent we all need to ask ourselves.

“Angel: Stefano Zarelli he’s an angel in the making
And he’s going straight to Heaven like me

Devil: Well that’s not what I’ve heard and as a Devil I can say the word’s
That Stefano’s as rotten as can be”

Angel: Well he’s a man of the world, Milano, California, Switzerland,
Vienna, Japan

Devil: Yeah he’ll go anywhere the girls can be persuaded
To have [*????&!] sex with a man”

The angel and devil sing the chorus together, with added handclaps and buzzing synth sounds. The chorus interestingly bemoans the stereotypical nature of Momus’ own imagery, making fun of this artificial dichotomy of angel/devil even as he sings it. The chorus concludes that we should embrace being both sides at once, rather than seeing our own personalities as some kind of battlefield.

“Everyone’s just a mess of contradictions
And we all write fictions each day
Angels and devils are the images we use
But they don’t mean shit, they just hide the truth away

Why not learn to love your contradictions
Why not live your life to the full?
Love the snake beneath the flowers
Cos together they’re the power
Of the contradictory beauty of you!”

The next verse throws up some fairly easy targets, Woody Allen and hot spice are easily converted to devilish concepts, as is the concept of a “hot place”. It could even be slightly lazy writing here. Remember there are thirty of these to complete.

“Angel: Well he loves Woody Allen and he loves a bossa nova
And he cooks a pretty good pasta sauce
Devil: Woody Allen, exactly, and the sauce is pretty spicy
Stefano Zarelli’s soul is lost

Angel: He loves warm places like tropical hothouses
There’s an orchestra that plays in his head
Devil: Yeah he loves warm places, like saunas and Hades
And between the legs of every redhead”

The chorus brings us Jeckyll and Hyde again, a constant theme in Momus’ work. Indeed this song is a gift to him to write about the duality of our natures, a concern he returns to often.

“Stefano Zarelli’s just a mass of contradictions
Like Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde
Angels and devils are the images we use
But they don’t mean shit, they just rule and divide

Why not learn to love your contradiction
Why not live your life to the full?
Love the snake beneath the flowers
Cos together they’re the power
Of the contradictory beauty of you!”

A fuzzed guitar sound plays an instrumental break for a measure, and the song ends with a repeated chorus.

Your whole life is a mass of contradictions
And you mix up fiction with truth
Love the flowers and the force
Cos together they’re the source
Of the power and the beauty of you!”

Minty Fresh
Another corporate entry, for the Chicago record label Minty Fresh. A US label and the american label of bands including the Cardigans, Kahimi Karie, Mike Scott, Veruca Salt, and the Aluminium Group, a loungecore act loved by Momus. They are still going and you can visit their website at mintyfresh.com. The song begins with vinyl noise and is a nursery rhyme to a traditional tune. It is a medieval dance tune. There is a gothic gloom to the lyrics, giving us the image of a medieval village dancing to ward off evil or the spirit of death. The song quotes from The Tempest, TS Eliot and other sources. The first verse is a sideways glance at the Scottish weather, and a list of artists on the label.

“When that I was but a little tiny boy
WIth a heigh ho the wind and the rain
Minty Fresh was my only joy
For the rain it rained every day
Papas Fritas, The Cardigans, Komeda
The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group
Anthony and Jim gave me hours of pleasure
With their record label Minty Fresh”

The following section takes a darker and gothic turn, referencing The Tempest.

“A mortal dare not look upon
The creatures of the night
The goblin foul, the horned toad
The vicious little sprite”

Momus takes the role of the spirit Ariel in the following verse, which again references the nursery rhyme “Ride a cock horse“:

“Ariel is the name I bear
On the bat black night I fly
I’ll have music wherever I go
Till Phoebus ‘gins a rise
The gods, my friends, smile down on us
The wheel of fortune turns
We shall be spared the plague and the clap
When the fire of London burns”

The gloomy outlook takes in TS Eliot now (“Whispers of Immortality“) and a dance of death.

“We see the skull beneath the skin
The eldritch empty eyes
And if we let the music stop
We’d soon be paralysed”

Momus lists more acts that are on the label then returns to a warning about the monsters of the night:

“But with bells on our fingers
And bells on our toes
We’ll ring a tune when we mop and mow
Heigh ho the wind and the rain
Let us play these disks again and again
The Sugarplastic, Melony
Doctor Kosmos, Veruca Salt
The Orange Peels, Kahimi Karie
The Aluminum Group and all

We fear the monsters of the night
The hump-backed whale, the Caliban brute
We stand in awe where they stand tall
The flibbertigibbet and the rawhead spook”

Ariel speaks again, quoting the Tempest, and the dance to ward off death continues forever…

When I was but a little tiny boy
Green grow the rushes o
Where the bee sucked there sucked I
In a parsnip’s bell I’d lie
Ring in the summer, boys, bring in the wheat
Let us laugh in the face of death
We’ll dance and feast all night tonight
To the sounds of Minty Fresh”

Jeff Koons
Who did not pay for his song, but was considered an appropriately high profile name to include on the album. At the time he was putting on a retrospective of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is considered a major artist of the 20th Century, and his interest in subjects such as Bavarian Folk art mixed with the modern, contemporary and kitsch fitted well with the concepts of Analog Baroque. Momus describes him as the great recontextualiser, seeing the sinister below the sheen of bourgeois chintz and pop culture.

The song begins as a stately baroque portrait, with the verse ending in an echoing reverberation of “Quattorze”… as a faster harpsichord backing arrives behind the amusing descriptions of his work. Listing the various items out of any kind of context except the song itself impresses their rococo strangeness and otherness on the listener.

Brancusi is Constantin Brancusi, the 20th Century Romanian Sculptor, who had a white Samoyed called Polaire as a muse, featuring in many photographs of him and his work including a portrait by Man Ray. The Michael Jackson/Bubbles sculpture, of which there were three copies, is renowned, and one copy sold for 5.6 million dollars in 2001.

“He has come to bring you things that make you happy
A gigantic puppy made of living flower
A balloon dog like a helium Brancusi
Baroque and Rococo, Louis Quattorze

Basketballs suspended in Bavaria
Usher in a fat contented pig
Whose every hair is hand-carved by Italian master-craftsmen
A porcelain Michael Jackson and Bubbles in a wig”

A synth horn sound plays a fanfare over the verse now, an overserious counterpoint to the ridiculous art described.

“A box of breakfast cereal we market to the morning
A teddy bear policeman reprimands you with a warning
And all that’s made in heaven falls apart
Pink and yellow arrows through your heart
Blue and yellow arrows through your heart
Green and yellow arrows through your heart”

The song slows again with a portentous bass line, further playing the serious against the absurd.

“Mr Koons with a swordfish!
Pin the tail on Koons!
President Koons on Mount Rushmore!
The Klondike Trail by donkey”

An 8-bit flourish, an effect Momus has used before, introduces the crux of the song’s intent: explaining why Koon’s art is important and why, in fact, all art is important:

“Context is a game that you can play
And art can help you have a better day”

This is borne out by the every piece of work that is described, as cultures and eras are mixed an appropriated in Koon’s work to deliberately absurdist effect, like the incongruous nature of a face in the oval of a ridiculous seaside cutout. Koons sculpted himself as Louis Quattorze.

“Pink panthers from the realm of the ephemeral
A friendly advertising testimonial
A second empire chair, Boticelli hair
Cut-outs at a fun fair and the clothes you love to wear
Every time that it appears that happiness and fun
Are as far away as Jupiter and Mars
According to the lore of great philosophers
A shaman must appear amongst the stars
A Sun King lifts his hand amongst the stars
And a vacuum cleaner stands amongst the stars”

As strange sounds take over, the singer rises in pitch describing the anomalous effects of Koon’s dark star and then fading away. Having permission to write a song for Koons on the album was a triumph for Momus, his artwork and philosophy are a perfect fit for the project.

“Gigantic baboons
Cereal spoons
Philosopher kings
The moon in June
Disney cartoons
The morning sun
Jeff Koons”

Milton Jacobson
Matt Jacobson runs Le Grand Magistery, and he purchased this song for his grandfather, Milton, who was a theatre manager from Detroit, Michigan. Milton ran a burlesque called the Stone Burlesk, from a building purchased at the end of the Great Depression and which burned down in the 1990s. The venue was featured in numerous publications, and painted and photographed many times. The advertising flyers for the venue are classics of their genre, and much imitated. After Milton died in 2011 Matt found stores of memorabilia related to the venue and put together a documentary and live shows in his memory.

The song is a vaudeville pastiche and has a call and response structure, one line’s melody being answered by the next. Played with amusing synth sounds, organ chords and 8-bit percussion. The verse refers to the location of the Burlesk and talks about the changing times that it lived through, as attitudes to sexual entertainment altered over the years. The “forbidden nights” and “savage crime” could for instance refer to an incident in 1951 when singer Johnnie Ray was arrested in the Stone Burlesk for soliciting a male undercover vice squad cop.

“Make yourself like Milton Jacobson
To get ahead in vaudeville
Burlesque in Detroit Michigan
To get ahead in vaudeville
Forbidden nights and burning moments
Playful girls and savage crime
If you want to get ahead in vaudeville
Be a witness to the march of time”

Presenting live shows, Milton would produce random objects and ask if anyone in the audience had one, in which case they would receive a prize, for instance, boiled eggs. Screeno – a game – was a portmanteau word from “screen” and “bingo” whereby a spinning dial was projected on a screen, and bingo numbers would be presented. Audience members poked out the numbers on their bingo cards with toothpicks.

“If you want to get ahead in the showbiz game
Be sure that your ideas are fresh
Does anybody have a toothpick, ma’am
Has anybody got boiled eggs?
We’re going to play a game of Screeno
While the girls kick up their legs
If you can tell a joke about the eggs I broke
Or a man who had a dog called Sex”

Brass instrument sounds play along with the verse, with a quirky horn solo. This verse refers to the exquisitely blunt advertising used by the venue and designed by Milton, as well as where he got the girls and what else could be seen on stage.

“Bone ’em up in Barnum’s Lexicon
The words that pull the biggest crowd
‘Sexotic, sexquisite, sexsational’
Make sure your poster’s extra loud
Get girls from the Accordion College
Gigantic reptiles can be nice
Busby Berkley wheelchairs, my oh my
Bums dressed up as bears on ice”

The main theme from Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” is played by a whistle sound in another instrumental break before the final verse. Milton did have a handlebar mustache and hat, his appearance every bit as extraordinary as the venue itself. No doubt he would have caught some employees with their hand in the till, or worse, at times, and no doubt he could have ended their careers in vaudeville. At least in Detroit.

“You’ve said such lovely things about my handlebar mustache
You’ve said such lovely things about my hat
Here’s a genuine semi-precious stone
I just wanted to tell you that
I’ve been watching with binoculars from opposite the theatre
And you’re a lovely person, but
You’ll never get ahead in vaudeville
If I catch you with your hand in the till
(One more time)
If I catch you one more time with your hand in the till
You’ll never get ahead in vaudeville”

Ending with a repeated line, as vaudeville songs often do, this is a tribute to not only Milton, but to a type of entertainment we may have lost, and a venue remembered fondly by many.

Mai Noda
A Japanese girl with a strawberry iMac, as Momus describes her, there is little he adds to this description in the song. A crunchy synth line, slightly reminiscent of a data line, plays the underlying hook. A tick-tock as of a metronome provides rhythm and soft synth accompanies the lyrics of the verse which simply describes the iMac waiting for Mai to return and give its life meaning.

“I am Mai Noda’s strawberry iMac
Switch on my screen
A strawberry coloured Apple computer
Also in green
I sit in the gloom of this little room
Emitting a luminous hum
Deep in my pink
Translucent sleep
Waiting for Mai to come home”

The chorus adds what sounds like a bagpipe or similar instrument playing an eastern theme, and vocal backing. The union of mind and machine is the focus of the chorus, from a time when the cyber revolution promised such things, and some years on from the 1977 Dean Koontz penned horror film Demon Seed, where a malevolent and jealous computer mind fertilises its female user.

“This is our world, iMac and Mai
Here in our room
Body and mind and industrial design
Under the moon”

Jonathan Ive was chief designer at Apple Inc. from 1992, when he was 25, until 2019 and therefore responsible for the design of the table and equipment Mai uses, and the iMac inhabits, albeit waiting still as she bathes and then reads authors including Raymond Queneau (famous for his book Exercises in Style, which contains the same tale in 99 variations of style). Queneau’s work seems to have a thematic resonance in Stars Forever, containing many tales in many styles as it does, to one purpose.

“Translucent and pink I sit on the table
Designed by the Englishman Ive
A few sparks of static make my screen crackle
As I come alive
I rise from my deep translucent sleep
Mai sits there reading a book
Mai takes a bath
And when she’s clean
Mai reads Queneau, Bataille and Celine

This is our world, iMac and Mai
Here in our room
One human being and her machine
Together alone”

The following verse describes now how the iMac sees Mai, in a slightly sexualised but still alien way. Perhaps the iMac is in love with her, but in a style more fitted to the terrible 1980s film Electric Dreams rather than the terrible 1970s film Demon Seed. The chorus describes the music she listens to and, quaintly, the modem currently in control of the phone line.

“Bare on her flat tatami mat
Mai turns the page
Lost in her dream
Lithe as a cat
With thoughts that are strange
Mai turns to me
And I see
Her face in the frame of my screen
She looks like a goldfish
Voluptuous and naked
Golden and green

This is our world, iMac and Mai
Here in our room
The crackling of Bebop on chunky black vinyl
A modem negotiates the line”

PostPet was an email program (which frankly sounds like malware) which contained tamagotchi like creatures including a pink bear called MoMo. The PostPets required looking after but would go and deliver your mail to other people who had the same dreadful software installed. It is the same sort of software which gave us the misery of customised mouse pointers and since you sent your PostPet to other people, each message had to include the animation and actions that PostPet would carry out, into which any teenage hacker could include any executable code they wanted. Apple computers of course, are not immune to viruses, it is just that fewer are written which target them. I would personally prescribe myxamatosis for the PostPet that Mai used, and remove the program entirely.

“Her favourite PostPet, a small yellow rabbit
Brings Mai her mail
Outside the rain, the sweet summer rain
Falls on the wall

This is our world, iMac and Mai
Here in our room
One human being and her machine
Under the moon”

The final chorus, accompanied again by shouts as of a Turkish line-dancing troupe and bagpipe effects, brings the song to an end.

Robert Dye
Mr. Robert Graham Dye was – is – a fixture at Momus’ concerts. Described as “beaming and blond”, he would seem not to fit into Momus’ earlier categorisation of his fans as Japanese, or artists, or in the music industry. He might even be relatively “normal”: whatever kind of insult that is. Mr. Dye worked / works in the medical equipment industry, specialising it would seem in selling tools of fundamental importance. With the subject matter at hand, the song is infectious and in an English music hall style. A double tom strike opens the song (just as “The Angels are Voyeurs” did), and a choppy synth riff introduces us to our hero, as we waltz into a history lesson: the undoubted sexual depravity of the royal family via the story of Queen Victoria’s husband. Momus delivers with his cheeky vaguely cockney voice.

“They say the Prince Consort was afflicted, you know
With medical defects of many sorts
And even a disease of an anti-social nature
He’d picked up from the Northern German ports”

Thank God for science, and the availability of equipment with which the filthiest undercarriages can be cleaned. A medieval sounding flute joins in, counterpointing the bass synth. The melody descends into the last line ready for the chorus.

“General Impediment
With your medical equipment
To purge excess sediment from the depths of the spleen
Plumbers by appointment
To His Majesty Prince Albert
You’ll never make a whipping boy of me”

For the chorus, the synth and woodwind sound play sustained chords, bringing a sense of drama and pathos to the story, emphasised by the choice of chord sequence on the third and fourth lines of the chorus below, followed by a rising triumphalism to the call out of Time Gentlemen Please (the traditional shout given in British pubs when it is time to leave, here directed at the “General Impediment”). I have no idea if Robert Dye has ever run a pub – but hasn’t everyone occasionally. I know I have – and sometimes I even had permission.

I doubt Roberts’ employers or the company are really called Sphincter and Linctus, it would be astonishing if two partners really did have those names and nominative determinism would certainly force them into medicine. Or maybe something oppositional: the medical practice I attend had doctors called Dr. Riszk and Dr. Kerss. I tried to get a different doctor when I rang for an appointment, a Dr. Newman. I’d always surreptitiously feel him when I arrived, hoping to make the action a literal truth.

“For I’m Mr Robert Dye, commercial traveller
I worked my way up to Managing Director
Of Sphincter and Linctus, Manufacturers
Our remedies cure all the maladies
That daren’t speak their names
Woe betide the malaise that stands in my way
General Impediment, you’ve had your day
Time gentlemen please, and good night ladies”

The beat and choppy synth return for the second verse. This includes information Robert must have provided for the song and begins with slightly insensitive advice about how to clean contact lenses. That ship has sailed, Mr. Dye. To Greece.
Did Mr. Dye really remove his hair and buy a toupee instead? It’s not a tempting idea. It does make me wonder how terrible your hair would have to be to wear the thing that Trump wears – sorry, nonsense of course, it is all entirely natural. Momus accompanies himself on that line, so maybe it is not true and just revenge for the contact lens bullying.

“I wash my contact lenses in a kettle
It really is the quickest, cleanest way
I removed all my hair one day and bought a nice toupee
Cos I’ve never liked my own hair anyway”

Robert – presumably married – has pertinent advice for his wife which would earn divorce in some quarters. We also learn his attitude to Ghandi-ing up and breast milk, all of which would have you cancelled on Twitter in a heartbeat nowadays.

“Never get undressed in front of the window honey
People will think I married you for the money
I dress up as Ghandi
It impresses foreign clients, you see
I like breast milk, but never in my tea”

The second chorus follows the same pattern as the first, using the chord sequence to create a tension released by the rising pattern afterwards. Momus seems to be creating a word picture of a character who uses innuendo and certain mundanities of speech which is not quite how Robert Dye talks, however, what is certainly true is that he considered 18 Wheeler – a Scottish band on Creation records – to be the best band in the world and wanted to manage them. By 1999 they were dropped by Creation after their third album and single “Stay” had failed to set the world on fire. However, 18 Wheeler had been the band Oasis were supporting when they were “discovered” by Alan McGee in 1993.

“Cos I’m Mr Robert Dye, commercial traveller
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
The animals talk to me, I talk to them
When we rule the world you’ll be sorry
Catch my drift, going my way
Say no more, hi-de-hey
A nudge is as good as a wink at the end of the day
18 Wheeler, best band in the world
Good night ladies”

The third verse discusses Robert’s family, and some startling revelations:

“Trudy my mother had me by Caesarian
Grandmother Schlump got shoved under a tram
Lotte, mum’s twin, said the Aryans did her in
For refusing to be beastly to anyone”

The final chorus makes it clear that the family as discussed above and Robert’s current family are the centre of his life. It also implies that the “sediment” he fights in his professional career is a benefit in that it provides a living. Overall the fight against “General Impediment” seems almost mystical, with Dye a Captain Ahab fighting a relentless beast, or perhaps a Don Quixote tilting at windmills, thrusting his devices into their blowholes and cavities.

“For I’m Robert Dye, commercial traveller
This life can be hard but keep up your dander
God bless my family and my career
If it wasn’t for sediment we’d never be here
General Impediment just wait and see
You’re far from seeing the back end of me
I’ll have you on your knees, time gentlemen please
And goodnight ladies”

“General Impediment” refers to the impediment of a stammer which a younger Robert Dye suffered with, and also to General Electric. As he says: “GE had just bought my company Endoscopy Services Ltd, and as MD I had to stay on for 6 months to see out the warranties to release the monies. It was quite a struggle”.

Although on the website Momus suggests that Robert has left his commercial travelling behind, in 2000 he registered the company “Medicus Maximus” named in tribute to Momus’ first album, and which he still runs himself today, supplying used endoscopes to suppliers and service centres worldwide. This involves a great deal of national and international travel. Robert also has a music shop – Vinyl Flair – in which he displays records and memorabilia, with some for sale.

Florence Manlik
Florence, the French girlfriend of Toog (Gilles) whom Momus had gone on tour with, and also an artist and musician. Momus chooses another medieval folk style for this piece, something like a synthesised krumhorn plays a riff with tambourine and tom-tom accompaniment. Momus sings the song double tracked, one higher and one lower pitched voice, representative of the manly and feminine aspects of Florence. The opening lines refer to her height and makes use of the relatively archaic word “dandy”.

“Dandy lovers come and see
Manly Madame Spaghetti
Sprouting like a runner bean
Florence Manlik”

Florence and Toog did have a music act called Panda 43, which released a single in 1999 called “La Photo du Chalet”.

“She has got a band and she
Calls it Panda 43
Manly dandy chaotique
Florence Manlik”

The song returns to both her facial and her psychological make up. In defence of “monomaniac” and “masochistic” you might take as evidence the statement from Momus here:

“Flo’s work ranges from performance (once she danced for several days non-stop at an art fair wearing headphones, watched through a peephole) to drawings of dessicated ectomorphic dandies on large sheets of paper.”

“Pale blue eyes and clowny lipstick
Black and blue-haired schizophrenic
Monomaniac, masochistic
Florence Manlik”

The next section describes her leaving home to become an artist, and some idea of what that entails. There is a thematic link between creativity in admiration, and in creating those floor portraits of people “she would like to be”. In other words, creating images of people you admire can itself be a discrete creative act unattached to the talent which is recorded.

“At 19 she left home
In a Citroen Deux Chevaux
To Marseilles and Paris to
Work on her art
She is always keen to see
People she would like to be
Spread out on the floor on three
Big sheets of paper”
She’s still making art but she
Now can also make you sushi
But her great creative feat
Is admiration”

An electronic squiggle is added to the backing track, slowly adding layers to the complex arrangement which is Florence Manlik. The “50 kilometer diary” sounds like something you would find in the serial killer’s apartment in Seven. “Fred” I do not know, but is presumably a friend of hers, or someone who she is. Having “toured herself” many times, she finds a further creative act in impersonation, or spiritual habitation of a type.

“Writes by hand a small and wiry
50 kilometer diary
Lives with Siamese and she
Swims like a cat
Hangs with Japanese and gay
Skeletons from unknown planets
Aliens are thin and fey
Fred’s from Marseilles
Always fascinated by
Things that she would like to try
Toured herself a hundred times
Now she’ll be you”

The beat changes now and there is a brief instrumental section with “la la” backing from Momus. A final stanza lists people she dresses as, or admires, she has clearly described herself as a “Vampire Girl” and feels affinity with the alien.

“Extraterrestrial dressed as human
Marilyn Manson, Gary Numan
Vampire girl for Gilles Weinzaepflen
Loves what she’s not”

Another instrumental section has Momus on backing vocals again before a final stanza ends abruptly. Florence is not in any way mad, and eccentric is merely a codeword.

“Elegante and eccentrique
Barely madder than a hatter
Manly madame spaghetti
Florence Manlik”

Toog’s album 6633 came out on Analog Baroque that year. After 9/11 would cancel a flight he would go on to record an album with Asia Argento. Nothing further seems to have come from the band Panda 43.

Adam Green
This song purchased by the cartoonist, whose work has appeared published in Esquire and The Chicago Tribune, is a more indie rock sounding affair. It opens with a Lola-esque guitar chord and with synth chords and drum machine backing, beckons us into the twisted world of the artist. It is another call and response style, with Momus singing a line then replying to himself against the rock riff. Is Howard to mean Devoto? Or The Duck? Who knows, but Adam shows a little envy against the South Park Creators here.

“If my name were Howard
I’d dress up in a cummerbund and fez
If my name were Howard
I’d puff all night on funny cigarettes

If my name were Howard
I’d be terrified of getting sucked buck naked down the drain
Into a damp, dark world of flesh-eating spiders
If my name were Howard
I’d have thought of South Park and be rich as Midas”

The song moves up a chord, but retains the riff for the chorus. The final call of “What else can I do?” is plaintive, and the eternal cry of the more controversial artist, after all, what else CAN they do? If they alter their calling or its output, it isn’t their calling anymore.

“But my name is Adam Green
I was born on Halloween
One more event I could not control or plan
What else can I do
But make my funny cartoons for you?”

We hear some more squelchy synth then the catchy riff and beat kick back in for the next verse, where we hear some truths about our Adam, gifted with that name as he is. I’m with him on the phone fact.

“If my name were Adam
If you hit me with a hammer
I would try to practise passive resistance
But it’s a tricky business
If my name were Adam
Terrible phone fact # 3
You’d spend seven years of your life waiting for a call from me”

Again Adam seems to bemoan the mundanity of his name, and wishes to be an eccentric like either of the Dorothies he names, or better yet our friend Howard. The bar code thing, if it works, sounds like tedious cyberspace steampunk nonsense from the era. Also, “automated price checkers”, why not just call them barcode scanners? Were they not called that then? It’s so hard to remember. In order not to repeat the word “barcode” I guess. Songwriters seem to have the “second mention” problem that magazine/website writers have: actually called the “popular orange vegetable” problem at the Guardian, after an article which struggled not to overuse the word “carrot”.

“If my name were Dorothy
I’d be a Baskerville or Parker
Surrounded by the barking of chihuahuas
If my name were Howard
My tattoo would be a working bar code on the palm of my left hand
That I would slide across any and all automated price checkers”

The second verse seems to sound a bit.. incel-ish. He seems as angry at the “willing consorts” as at anything else.

“But my name is Adam Green
I was born into a scene
Of dullish alpha males with willing consorts
What else can I do
But make my funny cartoons for you?

If my name were Howard”

Another quiet breakdown is followed by some examples of his amusing quotes, which are really good. It is perhaps unfortunate that he chooses to promote Ren Hoek (from Ren and Stimpy), given the controversy and accusation now attached to their creator, John Kricfaluski. Thank god his name isn’t John, I guess.

“Puppy brains and jism
Two good reasons why you should never let aliens
Prepare your thanksgiving dinner
Puppy brains and jism
Please take a message Miss Brown
I’ve stapled my tie to my tongue
If my name were Ren Hoek
I would dress in bespoke for chihuahuas”

The climax of the song begins as the third chorus opens during the end of the preceding verse, ideas tumbling out of the song like images onto paper. Adam must have been born somewhere pretty rough and southern sounding. We’ll forgive him feeling we are wretches in comparison.

“But my name is Adam Green
I was born into a scene
Of gibbering roughneck apes and liquorice allsorts
What else can I do
But vent my spleen on wretches like you?”

The guitar is played frenetically and pauses for the song to move up a key for this verse:

“If my name were Franz I would giggle myself stupid
Enjoying my insomnia through the endless Prague nights
If my name were Franz I would wear such tight pants
That people would laugh when I spoke in a funny high voice”

This allows the guitar break that follows to follow a cool progression back to the original key as Momus speaks “If my name were Howard”. The final verse again brings up the cummerbund and fez, and combines the various eccentricities that Adam wishes he could pass off.

“I’d dress up in a cummerbund and fez
And my wellington boot would be on the other foot
And my favourite cigarette would be a bergamot cheroot
My cut glass wit, refreshing and elegant, would enliven
Every slightly jaded party
My remarks would be recorded in order by Miss Dorothy Parker”

Adam’s books would seem to be out of print, although copies are available on Amazon, which compares him to Matt Groening. His art and current work are viewable on Instagram.

Maf
Ricky Gervais once said of those wishing to be famous, that if that is all you want, just murder a prostitute. Fame: of itself, is easy enough to acquire. Respect may be another matter. In this song Momus describes murdering Maf in order to consume his fame by association, and thereafter, is murdered in turn, or perhaps in retribution.
Maf is Matthew Moors (and yet a Moors Murderer joke does not appear). Born as the song suggests in Batley, Leeds, went to Selby High School and is a fan of Morrissey. Maf went to Manchester Metropolitan University and frequented the Hacienda. He studied Social Sciences at Sheffield University, and recently moved to Brighton and Hove. He volunteers at HelpAge International and is studying the care provision for older people at the Institute of Development Studies.
The song opens with atmospherics of a graveyard, corvid cries and the wind of decay. Through the gloom a carnival barker walks with an accordion. A flutter of noise, perhaps the echoed report of gunfire, brings in the music hall melody and announcement by Momus. A choppy organ, which might accompany a silent film is alongside. A gunshot appears alongside the fourth line.

“Read all about it! Murder in Whitechapel
Down the Grave Maurice
Maf, a star of Music Hall
Gunned down mid-song
By unknown assailants
So I confess I couldn’t bear being less famous”

The music steps up a key and mournful backing vocals add to the glamorous gloom. Whitechapel was, of course, the area of London frequented by the Ripper. Momus has a very cockney voice for this track, and “Murder most ‘orrible” is delivered in the same voice that the carnival barker may have used to entice you in to view poor John Merrick.

“Oh what misfortunes in this day and age
Befall the Whitechapel music hall stage!
A variety PacMan, I swallowed his fame
There and then, when I gunned poor Matthew down
(Murder most ‘orrible)”

Momus explains now in more detail why he detests Maf: the core of his jealousy. He compares him to three famous ascerbic comedians: all legends, and dead. I should say that Maf was not and is not a comedian, or singer, or music hall star. Momus admits in his website writings that the descriptions in this song were included out of malice. Perhaps he was a little bored of patronage pop on the day he wrote it, but we benefit from the scabrous humour. Maf does have a daughter called Ushka, who like my own daughter has Down Syndrome. Whether Maf is as popular with the ladies as the song suggests, is for him to know. Momus compares his murderous self to a fat Space Invader dropping on Maf’s head, making him die on stage. Again, he seems to hope he is ashamed of himself. There are more dramatic drums, cymbal splashes and synth effects over this ending.

“Maf had it all, the love of the public
The wit of Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, and Peter Cook
Beautiful women, a daughter called Ushka
A career in music hall, Bathshebas and babushkas
Oh what misfortunes occur in this age
You can never be sure you’ll leave the stage
As you came on it
A fat Space Invader, I flattened his fame
That day I gunned poor Matthew down
(I ‘ope you’re ashamed of yourself)”

The next verse is certainly only full of half – truths. A singer, philanderer and coprophile – probably not. A drinker? Probably. Bracelet with an epigram installed? Probably true for a student in the 1990s. In Dickensian copperplate? No doubt.

Momus bemoans the lack of fame Morrissey was enjoying at the time, which followed his 1997 album Maladjusted and lasted until the breakthrough and comeback of 2004’s You are the Quarry. Whether Morrissey could get arrested now probably depends on who he is speaking to, and who they speak to in turn. At any rate, it wasn’t worth murdering him to soak up any fame. He had to go bigger, he had to go Maf.

“Singer, philanderer, drinker and coprophile
Born in Batley, Leeds, adorned in orange rosary beads
‘I am nobody’ engraved on the bracelet
He wore around his wrist in Dickensian copperplate
I made my confession to Didsbury police
I’d hoped to kill Morrissey, but neither of us could get arrested
Oh what misfortunes, what sufferings and pain
I have brought upon the halls of old Brick Lane!”

A moment of introspection as Momus realises Maf may have been quite normal, and he is the odd one.. Then the cycle repeats and Momus is shot down by someone (let’s face it) really, really desperate for fame. The “Grave Maurice” was a pub on Whitechapel Road, Shoreditch, from 1723 to 2010. Rebuilt in 1874 and run by Truman’s Brewery it became a notorious haunt of gangsters in the 1960s, with Ronnie Kray and ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser being regulars. “Grave” actually comes from a Germanic word meaning a Count – and the original Grave Maurice was Maurice, Prince of Orange. However the pub sign showing a soldier not smiling became the serious “Grave” Maurice of the title for most people’s understanding.

“(Or could he be sane?)
(To my eternal shame)
Read all about it! Murder in Whitechapel
Down the Grave Maurice
Momus, star of Music Hall
Gunned down mid-song –“

The song ends on gunfire of course, as everything must. Maf himself has provided me with an update from his point of view:

“The person from Stars Forever is dead now, gunned down by the familiar assailants of ageing and ennui. No longer a singer , drinker or philanderer the only shit I see comes from my Jack Russells arse when I walk him in the woods.
Time has actually been kind to me as days of chaotic alcohol have been replaced with serenity, slow life and love. Time has however not been so kind to my old North Star Morrissey. Momus, of course, sang in the song that he’d actually hoped to kill Morrissey and his gruesome descent does appear to have spookily hastened since the release of the ‘maf’ track. I note how nowadays he lumbers across the Hollywood Bowl stage like some crypto Faragist Frankenstein all the deft artistry and arch guile long since evaporated. I feel for Johnny Marr.
On a more positive upland the consequences of having Momus write and sing a song about me did open otherwise locked doors to a number of romantic encounters, most which I only mildly regret, as well as friendships amongst the Momuratti that I cherish. I’m an unashamed Momus acolyte, his life and art has deeply and immeasurably enriched mine. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be alive at the same time as him. Maf August 2020″

Sentiments we can all echo: and again, Maf’s regrets about things he has done are minor compared to our regrets for things not done: but Morrissey… maybe should regret more. Stephen it was really something… once.

Stephanie Pappas
An email friend of Momus with whom he had shared correspondence for some years, Stephanie was a DJ living in Hoboken and working on the upper East Side. The song is an electro pop piece, starting with girlish vocals and electro beat accompanying a calmly delivered tale of mutual exploitation.

“I follow a totally uncharismatic guru
(Electric automatic guru)
He told me Stephanie be wonderful
Be who you want to be
And do the things you want to do
(Electric guru)”

A police siren heralds the arrival of a tinkling piano riff, and the vaguely erotic vocal noises add to the seedy atmosphere. Stephanie has clearly had at least her Mother try to deprogram her, but to no avail. More sound effects are added as this verse goes on, screams and laughs. Samples I feel we may have heard before. Interestingly, Stephanie considers her guru to be a fool for the things he tries to fool her with: it is a knowing and presumably symbiotic relationship. She needs what attention he gives her, and he takes her money.

“I gave all my money
To my uncharismatic guru
(Automatic uncharismatic guru)
But Mummy don’t worry
I know what he’s trying to do
(Bugaboo, bugaboo guru)
Oh he doesn’t fool me, with one look
I can see right through
(My automatic uncharismatic guru)
But I would still buy
If he tried to sell me the moon
(The fool — sell you the moon!)”

Stephanie’s desire to please her guru is made clear now: he expects her to be in love, so she is. But he does not realise he is the fool in this relationship.

“I have fallen in love with my uncharismatic guru
(I love you, I love you guru)
Because that was exactly the thing
That he seemed to expect me to do
(My guru)(My automatic uncharismatic guru)
(The fool)”

The verse leading into an instrumental break uses the guru’s own words against him: he tells Stephanie to be true to herself, and so she is intending to be, at the guru’s emotional expense.

“He thinks he’s a charlatan
Thinks I’m a naive fool
(My laughable, loveable guru)
In fact it’s the other way round
Who fooled who?
(More fool you, guru!)
He told me Stephanie Pappas
To thine own self be true
(Do as I say, not as I do)
All that seems to be you’s really me
And all that seems to be me is really me too”

A bass line leads into a solo based on “Rapper’s Delight” with vocal samples behind it. Various keyboard trills and arpeggios come behind the main tune now as Stephanie describes the disappointment of her bedtime adventures in guruland.

“So I went to bed
With my uncharismatic guru
It seemed to be simply the right thing to do
When I’d given him my money, my soul and my body
I did it to make him feel better
And I’d just like to say
I only wish my guru could have been a better lay
Hey”

As in so many relationships of this type, the song does not answer the central question, who is fooling who? As the song fades out, it is simply the case that neither the guru nor his supposed victim are any closer to enlightenment. Stephanie still lives and works in NYC in music, and no doubt is a guru herself now.

Steven Zeeland
There’s no ambiguity in this lyric: Steven Zeeland is clearly very up front about what he wants from life. This song begins with drums, being military, a horn declaring a nautical air, and is a shanty in which Mr. Z declares his desires. Momus accompanies himself with insurgent whoops during the song, and fighting calls. The verse is followed by a synth riff.

“All I desire is a military man who knows that he is born
A soldier, a sailor, a pretty marine blowing on the horn
On a military base or a battleship deck
Let me come in his ass with my tongue down his neck
When I die mix my ash with the piss
At Camp Pendleton Del Mar Enlisted Club”

Steven Zeeland has indeed written several books about sexual identity and sailors, which are still available. Camp Pendleton is a US naval base and Del Mar is a beach resort used by the military and eligible staff. Steven tells his story now, of his high school crush who, having joined the army, betrayed him further by being straight, emphasised by the vocal being doubled at this point. Steven soon finds his ideal job, however, with his interest in the military fully sated.

“Well Brent was my crush in high school, boys
And I followed him round the world
Well the army sent Brent off to Frankfurt, boys
But Brent he went off with a girl
I rented a room like a Fassbinder film
But I needed a job so they had me begin
At a sporting goods store on the military base
Blowing on the horn”

Given he has written several – according to Momus, entertaining – tomes on the subject of military fetishes, he seems fairly in the dark about the origin of his own interest, merely saying “opposites attract”. There seems nothing particularly bizarre in finding muscular fit men attractive, if you are attracted to men, but his interest in their abilities as “killing machines” is somewhat darker, and not explored.

“And why should I lust after killing machines
A man of my delicate build?
Why request photos of naked marines
From the Athletic Model Guild?
Stripped to the skin, their muscles like rocks
With their hair high and tight, gripping their cocks
Put it down to the fact that opposites attract
And go blowing on the horn”

A cheerful solo now plays on a high brass sound, following the verse melody and turning into a quirky and atonal passage. Returning to the lyric, it seems that Steven’s research has uncovered considerable homoerotic behaviour in the armed forces, not necessarily related to an individual’e personal sexuality. He describes “bonding” with a Corporal, for instance, and is correct that many soldiers have worked side gigs in homosexual pornography, being “gay for pay”. Since he correctly asserts that sexuality is a sliding scale rather than an absolute, he offers only to keep you company of a sort until “your girlfriend arrives”. These would seem to be the arguments and seductions he uses on his conquests.

“On Okinawa straight Corporal Buchman bonded while getting tattoos
In California a thousand marines were caught posing for gay videos
Nobody’s straight one hundred percent
Every soldier and sailor’s potentially bent
I’ll keep you hard till your girlfriend arrives
And go blowing on the horn”

Momus now identifies three of the books Steven has written, and jokes about research. Not a chair-bound academic, Steven “follows the fleet” continuously.

“He wrote ‘Barrack Buddies and Soldier Lovers’, ‘The Masculine Marine’
‘Sailors and Sexual Identity’ and did lots of research in between
But a writer should never stop living to write
Steven Zeeland, our hero, still follows the fleet
Painting the town, writing it down
And a’ blowing on the horn”

The final verse voices a central theme of Momus’ work: that regret is related to inactivity and not activity. I might cringe a bit about things I have done or said, but the things I did not do but could have done are the things that keep me awake at night. It is action that gives meaning to existence, the leaving of a message, at least, in this case represented by genetic material. Despite all this positivity, I can’t help feeling that his desired final resting place is a little too self-deprecating.

“A man in the thrall of a sexual spell is the luckiest man alive
The dreams he has lived and the sperm he has spilled
Give meaning to his life
When you look back, after you’re dead
You’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you did
When I die mix my ash with the piss
At camp Pendleton Del Mar Enlisted Club”

This final verse mixes the atonal synth patterns in, giving a surreal edge to the descriptive lyrics, and a swift end to the song follows the final line. Steven Zeeland’s research and writing was important at the time in the debate around homosexuality in the armed forces, which had a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in force until 2011. He remains an influential writer and researcher in this area.

Mika Akutsu
Mika was the individual blessed/cursed with the job of translating Momus’ lyrics into Japanese for his previous two albums. Momus points out this involved translating lines such as “peel the pamplemouse pink to the pulp” from “Professor Shaftenberg” and must have been a considerable linguistic challenge. She worked in Software Design at the time and continues to do so. Momus seems to have known relatively little about her outside of these facts and what she provided in her answers to his questionnaire.

Truman Capote spent somewhat more than one day with Marilyn Monroe, having met her in 1949, but his portrait essay “A Beautiful Child“, which is found in his collection Music for Chameleons, is about one particular day he spent with her attending the funeral of English actress Constance Collier in 1955. In the first verse here he bemoans his inability to grasp human nature as immediately and easily as Capote could.

The track begins with what sounds like a field recording, movement of some kind, a pleasant electric piano sound and a gentle percussive backing with a Koto sound accompanying.

“When Truman Capote spent just one day with Marilyn Monroe
He wrote ‘A Beautiful Child’
The book Capote wrote hit the right note
Hit the spot
He got Monroe to a T”

Momus describes then his own version of of Capote’s day with Mika, while casually listing what little he knows, including her pseudonym. The sound as he asks – demands for answers – is more strident with a rising organ sound peaking on the word mystery, then more softly describes their potential day out.

“But Mika Akutsu AKA Mika Leigh
What about me?
I know you work in electronics
Translated all my lyrics
But you’re still a mystery
Let’s spend the day in Yokohama
Riding on a ferris wheel
And see what we can see
Mika Akutsu AKA Mika Leigh”

Momus refers now to the Japanese folk “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” about a baby found inside a bamboo stalk. The child swiftly grows into a beautiful woman who rejects her suitors with impossible requests, rejecting even the Emperor. She finally discloses that she is from the Moon, banished or evacuated depending on interpretation, and must return there. It is a classic tale which has been filmed several times and is the basis of various other stories such as Sailor Moon and Naruto. A harpsichord sound plays to accompany this, perhaps referential to the age of the story.

“When Princess Kaguya arrived from the moon
She made crazy demands to throw off the men
Tagging along trying to get her into bed
She said ‘Don’t fuck with my head'”

Mika’s deliberate lack of definition in Momus’ mind is exploded into something like Princess Kaguya’s impossible task list. He also compares her again to Marilyn Monroe, who had a pseudonym. The organ section this time has Momus providing backing vocals and now has more gentle sounds allowing this to sound a little like a nursery rhyme.

“Strung out between Yokohama and Palo Alto
You ought to know
You confuse your friends with two homes
Confuse your men with two names
Just like Norma Jean
Let’s spend the day in California
Climb a giant redwood tree
And see what we can see
Mika Akutsu, born again Mika Leigh”

There is a very friendly sounding instrumental break now, with a cat-sound effect in the background, the main melody played as a woodwind sound and squelchy bass noises, along with whistling and mouth organ.

Equally, Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and wanted Marilyn Monroe for the lead role which of course went to Audrey Hepburn. Considering the eventual film version of Tiffany’s portrayal of a Japanese man, I would shy away from inviting us to consider its “multiculturalism”. This verse correctly identifies anyone who can translate Momus’ lyrics as “very, very clever” and has what tvtropes website would call a Title Drop, as he identifies her as a Star Forever, if nothing else. Electronic squalling accompanies this section for a while, fading at the half way point and allowing a gentle ending.

“Holly Golightly and Tinkerbell are multicultural
But they don’t exist
I know you’re very, very clever
And you’re a star forever
But you’re still the great unknown
Let’s spend a day in Yokohama
Riding on a ferris wheel
And see who we can be
Mika Akutsu born again Mika Leigh”

This mediation on the inability of mere proximity to open a stranger’s soul to us calls us to consider how well we know anyone, whilst acknowledging the slightly hypocritical stance of considering the possession of two names and two homes to be a deliberate obfuscation whilst having oneself at least two names (Nick, Momus) and living transcontinentally.

Miles Franklin
A love letter / post-breakup declaration, one of the most personal of all these personal statements now follows, almost in the style of a lonely hearts advertisement. The song opens with a thudding bass drum and hi-hat, at odds with the romantic melody, an electric piano playing solemn chords under the half-spoken lyrics of the verse. He begins with a tale of mislaid loves, Wildean carelessness apparent.

“All the lovers I’ve had I seemed to mislay
One went mad, one went away
One left a note that said ‘The heart repairs’
On the wine cork he wrote ‘Love is there'”

Miles has a yearning for domestic bliss, from seeing happy couples shopping for furniture in IKEA.

“The shelves we put up at the foot of the stairs
Make me long to be a couple like the ones at Ikea
Now when I dream of a man
I see him putting up shelves (shelves!)”

The next few lines really do read like a old-fashioned newspaper lonely hearts ad. Wallpaper is a design/architecture magazine. Sam(antha) Taylor-Wood (now Taylor-Johnson) is a film-maker, musician and photographer. Phillip Glass is the renowned American composer, David Sylvian was the lead singer of the band Japan and Dead Bees on a Cake was his fifth solo album, his first for 12 years and released in 1999. Together these do suggest the adjectives Miles uses for himself. A single, lonely wavering synth note emphasises the isolation of the last line.

“Single, 32, working in IT
Miles Franklin
Gay, discreet
Neatly-bound issues, Wallpaper magazine
Sam Taylor-Wood, Philip Glass symphonies
David Sylvian, ‘Dead Bees On A Cake’
Modernist, minimalist, opaque
Japanese tea, lonely old me”

The song enters the chorus with a lift but remains nostalgic and longing, the melody lifting as the chords fall. Abba’s classic “The Day Before you Came” is referenced. Tyler Brule is a journalist, who was shot by a sniper while covering the war in Afghanistan for Focus magazine, and while recovering decided to launch Wallpaper magazine, mentioned previously in the song. Miles seems to be seeing his life as filled with decorative interiors rather than the love he craves. He perhaps sarcastically reminds someone of what they wrote on a wine cork before abandoning him. Finally the song lists cliches of romantic aspiration, pop songs, dreams, the hope of spring.

“The day before you came
The one that got away
My life with Tyler Brule
Whether you care or pretend you don’t care
You can’t forget ‘love is there’
Classified advertisements, Wallpaper magazine
Lines from stupid pop songs, the fragments of a dream
Or simply spring (spring!)
It all begins again”

The following verse describes the interiors again, comparing them to the desolation in his heart. I am not sure why Kuala Lumpur is included, it is somewhere remote and unreachable in normal life in London of course. Miles lists his regrets: men he never met, books he never wrote: because “you’ll regret what you didn’t do, not what you did”. Charles and Ray Eames were a married couple, and important American designers of the mid-twentieth century.

“The serene calm of ebonised ash
Modern antiques, ceramics and birch
A stainless steel kitchen, a stainless steel heart
Kuala Lumpur, a world apart
The men I never met
The books I never wrote
Files full of letters and boxes full of notes
A Charles Eames chair, beautiful and bare”

The chorus now alters, describing in its second half the “tidy” life of his past love, and comparing his broken heart to shelves that need repairing. I wonder if his life would remain as tidy after Julius Caesar set fire to it?

“The day before you came
The one that got away
My life with Tyler Brule
Whether you care or pretend you don’t care
You can’t forget ‘love is there’
The shelves of magazines
You flipped through idly
Your life as tidy as the Alexandria library
The heart repairs
Like the shelves at the foot of the stairs”

The chorus is repeated with more passion in its delivery, the regret and longing palpable in the delivery, which is excellent, and the lyrics. Whatever type of lifestyle you lead – discreet, outrageous, obviously part of the gay “scene” or not, everyone seeks love and connection. Which eludes Miles at this time.

“The day before you came
The one that got away
My life with Tyler Brule
Discreet or outrageous, scene or non-scene
Love is there, shy and obscene
The men I never met
The books I never wrote
The songs I never sang, my heart full of hope
Or simply spring (spring!)
It all begins again”

This is one of the most heartfelt, beautiful and moving songs on Stars Forever, continuing a theme of lives not fully lived as yet. Of the song now, Miles himself had this to say:

“At the time my song was composed I was newly single, 32, and working in IT, having just finished with the guy who I think I knew at the time was probably the love of my life. The song reflected the wistful and elegiac feelings I had about the world at the time, but I was never as lonely as it made me out to be. That said, I am still single, though no longer working in IT. Spring (spring!) turned into summer and I guess the autumn leaves are falling now, but my heart is still full of hope…”

Paolo Rumi
Paolo is an Italian writer, copywriter and advertising expert, now working in social media promotion as well as music production. The first song Momus presented to Paolo was rejected because Momus took against the advertising world that Paolo worked in:

“the first version took Pasolini’s Lutheran Letters as its starting point, and railed in a post-Marxist sort of way, against the development of an apathetic consumerist Italy. But Paolo wrote me saying he was in fact rather comforted by the superficiality of consumerism, so I went back to the drawing board”

Rewritten from scratch, the song becomes a cyclic sounding hymn to some kind of cosmic dream: a utopian theme park of the mind and senses. A harpsichord plays choppy background accompaniment and a bass fades in, a synth effect like a bell played underwater joins in and there is something else in the far background, vinyl crackle and hiss from the history of music. As Momus starts singing the music smoothes out, the harpsichord stops and synths play instead. As the verses progress a female vocal effect is overlaid. The first part of the song describes travelling into Paolo’s mind, which seems to be a seaside town.

“I am a theme park
Paolo Rumi
Here are my gates
Come into me

I’m a dream park
Here in the rain
Filling the waves
Troubling space
With my SOS

Down the parade
Over the sea
Come follow me
I’m a theme park”

Momus brings in the musical world Paolo inhabits, and gently plays again with the casual hypocrisy of trying to be different from everyone else, yet wanting others to feel the same way as you. The music is layered, and slowly builds as the song progresses.

“I’m a DJ
All through the night
Trying to be dumb
Asserting the right to be different
From everyone else

Seeking someone
To join me so we can be
Different
In the same way
Paolo Rumi
The minotaur guy
The labyrinth guide
On the mother of rides”

The next verse seems to imply that Frankenstein could work in pop: maybe with sampling, creating pop music is the modern equivalent of stitching together old corpses and trying to breathe new life into them.

“I’m a theme park
Come step inside
Come be my bride
Frankenstein’s just a working class guy
In the kitsch world of pop
His salvation”

Momus references the T-Rex song “Ride a white swan”, and references the disposable nature of culture by riding towards “cities of papier mache”, which is where a beat kicks in finally to the song.

“I am a dream park
I ride a white swan
On a black pond
On and on
Through the hot nights
Towards cities of papier mache”

The beat and the backing vocal sounds drive the lyric on. The personal situations he describes here are nebulous, perhaps a triangular relationship of the sort Momus has explored before, but clearly the deviant ones see themselves as warriors against the normal cultural bastions: too young to be crushed by the difference of the “others”. Not perhaps that young anymore.

“I’m a theme park
The bride was a man
The family planned
The three of us there in the ghost house
We’re the deviant ones
The long way we’ve come
The burdens we’ve borne
Will one day be etched on our face
But not yet — we’re still young
Too young to be crushed by the weight
Of your difference from us”

Oh but that youth is fleeting, and the subject’s concern for his aging process is reflected well in referring now to T.S. Eliot’s own meditation on middle age and the death of youth. Except this subject is as likely to sell you the peach as to eat it, along with any peach-eating accessories someone of your age might require.

“I’m a poem
J. Alfred Prufrock
Sinking my teeth in the peach
I am a theme park
Advertising
Learning to love the consumer society”

This final line could as well be prefaced by ..”the struggle was finished, he had won the victory over himself.”: by Momus at least, but Paolo genuinely enjoys the consumerist society. It is a vital enough point that it is highlighted by an instrumental break, played on a high pitched synth sound.

This section predicts the rise of social media in some ways, in its talk of “advertising emotional states”. Which revolution is the DJ from? It is hard to see this as a cultural revolution, but more the rise of the generated realities that Adam Curtis, for example, discusses in his work.

“I am a DJ
Filling the waves
Troubling space
With my SOS
I’m a DJ
From the revolution
Advertising
Emotional states”

This section also predicts the rise of social media, in its talk of “trying to discover intelligent life”.
Is the subject trying to be dumb/bright to fit in? Or does he see dumb and bright as the same thing, but from different perspectives?

“Trying to discover intelligent life upon earth someplace
(Trying to be dumb, trying to be bright)
I’m a DJ
All through the night
Trying to be dumb
Trying to be different from everyone else”

Finally asking – demanding – that we join and discover his “voice” and his vision.

“Seeking someone to join me
So we can be different the same way
A theme park
You have no choice
Here are my gates
Discover my voice…”

Clearly a difficult song, with a difficult creation. Paolo dreamed of living in a supermarket, of being swallowed totally by a consumerist vision. It is hard to put this across in a way which makes it sound appealing, especially when you are not particularly enraptured with that aspect of the modern world.

Karin Komoto
A girl from Kyoto living in San Francisco, and a friend of Momus. Described as “a chameleon” by Momus, “surrounded by gay men” and looking like one as a result. The music fades in, electronic and dramatic sounding, crowd noises mixed into the background. The vocal is quiet and a Japanese voice speaks under it. The verse speaks to her androgynous appearance and spirituality.

“I will dress you in a looser flowing silk
Androgynous hermaphrodite
You are a person made of milk
You are a person made of light
You are a lotus water flower and a crane
Your love is for a soul and not its name”

A main riff played on a Koto keyboard sound plays in the chorus, which is a chant of “Karin Komoto”, a declaration of admiration.

“Karin Komoto
Karin Komoto
Karin Komoto
Karin come on”

The second verse is more down to earth in its description, the declaration of “outrageous” is a sarcastic comment to those who might -still, even in 1999 – have been shocked by such a lifestyle. The kitten was reportedly called Momus.

“San Fransiscan Japanese
Asexual and naive, flirtatious
You’re affected and a waif
And your boyfriends are all gay
Outrageous!
A kitten sleeping on your naked breast
A perfect image of happiness”

The chorus has a squalling electronic sound sampled and processed running through it, the following instrumental is simultaneously rough, ugly sounds, but beautiful in its impact, the duality of Karin expressed therein and the song and the first disc fade out. The comparison to My Bloody Valentine which Momus made has some truth to it, although his use of feedback and electronic noise is more constrained and controlled.

“Karin Komoto
Karin Komoto
Karin Komoto
Karin come on”

Conclusion to Disc One
Asked which Stars Forever songs he liked best on ilxor.com in 2005, Momus said:

“I suppose my favourites (as songs) are Tinnitus, Akiko Masuda, Stefano Zarelli, Minty Fresh, Jeff Koons, Milton Jacobson, Robert Dye, Florence Manlik, Maf, Stephanie Pappas, Steven Zeeland, Mika Akutsu, Miles Franklin. In other words, almost all of the UK disc 1 and almost none of the UK disc 2.”

He doesn’t mention the corporate songs, which after all are basically adverts where he could not be even a little subversive and still have it signed off for inclusion. Also missing in that list and from Disc 1 are Mai Noda, Adam Green, Paolo Rumi and Karin Komoto.

It is also worth mentioning that some songs were clearly booked but did not in the end make the final album. Either the money was never presented, or the individuals got cold feet, or were not able to agree / sign off the song. The images on Momus’ site show initial lists of customers and some are not present in the final selection:

Name Withheld
Anita Aldridge
Steve Kokker
Teri Zuckerman
Beppe ‘K’ Ferrari
Shoichi Kajino
Mrs Merrit
Orange Records
CMJ New Music Monthly
Mars Art Lab

The waiting list included:
Gary Knight
Reika Japonaise
D Parker
Bungalow Records
John-Robert Howell
Andrew Hoyle
Phil Millo
Matt Jacobson

Notably, the songs for “Name Withheld” and CMJ are stated to have been written, so must have been withdrawn by the customer at a late stage, deemed unsuitable for whatever reason.

The next entry – which is ready and I will upload next weekend – will cover the second disc, the eight parody competition winners and the commentary tracks.





2 thoughts on “History remembers the names…#21 Stars Forever Disc 1

  1. i always assumed Adam Green was the musician, ex Moldy Peaches, notwithstanding the reference to cartoons in the song. I learn something new every day, thankfully.

    Like

  2. Excellent news re the book—I’ve only recently been following this blog, but I’m a long-time Momus fan, and I’m quite enjoying the depth and detail with which you observe these recordings.

    Like

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