The 2006 album Ocky Milk came from a place of quiet joy, a friendly album, an album of love and pleasure, intended as feminine, serene and sensual. This would evoke a new tension and contradiction, voiced by Momus in Click Opera:

“in a world dominated by “aggressive normality”, perhaps evoking strange kindness is the most subversive, interesting and challenging thing an artist could do.”

The songs were written and recorded during 2005, with Momus in Berlin still. During a visit to London he met Hisae, a graphic design student at St. Martins. After Ayako moved out of the Berlin flat to work elsewhere, Hisae moved in, but soon had to return to Osaka for a time owing to visa restrictions. Finally they moved into another flat together in Berlin, in Neukölln, where they remained until 2010.

They bought a rabbit together, variously called Topo, Baker and Pok: described in Niche as an “absolute monster, but also a sort of small black son”. To all external appearance, they now formed an upstanding couple and a relatively domestic scene, but Momus continued his promiscuity and dalliance (friendliness, in fact) in various forms and with several girls, who would often become the focus of a song or album over the next ten years.

Momus turned to think of pleasure, and what it was that brought him pleasure. The things arrived at are food, a spring bath, a massage, lovemaking, lute music which drifts and swirls but does not build. They are pleasures which come as rewards, earned, not given, not freely arrived at as with drugs which replace a true relationship between our selves and the world as experienced by the self. The music he listens to in this simulation is static, not changing or building, but ambient and disinterested in self aggrandization. He writes:

“I cringe now when I think of how I tried to introduce Protestant-Romantic dynamism and aggression into Japanese pop in Kahimi Karie songs like Lolitapop Dollhouse: “I’m going to tear my playhouse down” indeed! I should have been learning from Japan’s serenity.”

Kahimi’s own post-Momus self-written work is lazy and serene rather than defiant. It strikes him that Japan retains a serenity in its art that other civilisations have not gained. The music he wants to construct will be consensual, self-effacing, a background that is complicit in pleasure: not least the pleasure he experiences with Hisae. But also, the distance he feels from her while she is visa-isolated in Osaka.

The new album he would record was informed by pleasure, by strange friendliness and a particular type of escapism. It would bring to mind the songs of Charles Trenet – most famous for “La Mer“. Also it would be influenced by King Tubby – the renowned Jamican recording engineer who pioneered dub music and remixing in the 70s, and by the Japanese singer Hibari Misora, whose blend of optimism, sentimentality and melancholy perfectly encapsulated for Momus the Japanese character. These concepts blended together into what Momus described as “random thin bucolic selfish sociable pentatonic torch music.” The films of Ozu, the experimental, psychedelic album Araça Azul by Caetano Veloso and the composer Harry Partch were also influences.

The collaboration on this album involved Rusty Santos, a young musician and record engineer/producer who had worked at the time with Animal Collective and The Boredoms and has since worked prolifically, including mixing Owen Pallett, Bob Dylan, Weyes Blood and many others. With his help eight songs on the album were recorded, with the remainder completed by Momus using Garageband, inspired partially by the enforced absence of Hisae. The final track listing included reworkings of songs written for others, an unrecorded 90s song and an out-take from Otto Spooky. John Talaga was again brought in to create interstitials and process sounds, and de-muddify the sound.

For the album cover, Momus, as for Otto Spooky, approached James Goggin of Practise design. The concept behind the cover began as a tribute to Bruno Munari, the Italian futurist designer/artist. His typography and book design was an inspiration, along with photographs he took showing a girl working on designs at a table. The idea was to present the album title in large lettering using the 1968 font BabyTeeth designed by Milton Glaser, cut out to reveal black or imagery underneath: this proved rather expensive to diecut and was abandoned. Munari created a series of children’s books including ABC in 1960, with large lettering and images of objects for children to create narratives around:

these messages are not supposed to be finished literary stories like tales because that would have a repetitive and uncreative influence on the child… before it’s too late, individuals must be taught to think, imagine, dream and be creative” (Munari, 1981)

All this fits well with the concept of a friendly album, and points to the playfulness which the sonics and lyrics of the album contain. So the cover as below shows the model Kasja Ståhl (a designer working for studio Åbäke), working with the letters of the title, cut out Munari style in the font Bebit (a popular and free approximation of BabyTeeth). The photo shoot takes some time to organise, and Momus notes the “benign sobriety” and calm of the designers as they complete the work.

The back cover is black and lists the tracks in capitalised sans-serif along with publishing details. Inside the cover as on the previous album there is a credit for John Talaga as Reproducer. The album is recorded by Rusty Santos and Momus in Berlin and by Momus in Osaka. The design credits include “Apologies to Bruno Munari” and there are links to and Behind the bright orange disc is an image of Haile Selassie.

Moop Bears

Charles Trenet’s 1938 song Boum!, an onomatopoeic, jolly song reflecting the unrest and upheaval of 1938 France, can be played backwards, and if you do that, you get interesting half-heard statements: boom itself of course, sounds like Moop backwards. Momus also read the diary of Japanese photographer Rinko Kawauchi and used Yahoo! Babelfish to create interesting, half intelligible lyrics by putting her text through it. Cut up, randomly assembled language was used as well during the album, in order to cause juxtapositions which would encourage friendly firing of neurons. Incidentally, quite a bit of the imagery on Moop Bears in particular seems to reference Bush and the Iraq war, friendly fire of another kind.

The opening is quiet, actually taken from the track Devil Mask, Buddha Mind later, echoing spoken vocals, or rather, syllables of meaninglessness. The moments of silence are actually un-nerving, almost portentous. As a beat begins with a looped sample, a nursery rhyme ostensibly about bears begins.

“Oh wow wow wow
Ca sent si bon
Kimochi ii
Wood: to the Chinese house where that gruel is tasty
Somebody says what we’re already all thinking
And we laugh

Moop beuh, moopy doozaw
Moop beuh deu da gat goosh
Moop beuh pregat gazaw
Moop beuh carp gat git”

The second half of this verse brings some kind of anti-war sentiment, maybe a reference to the Bush regime which is hunting them. Fuzzed guitar accompanies the looped melody.

“Moop bears in the thunder
Moop bears on the idiot sea
Moop bears living under
Some plug ugly regime
In horseback boots
Clumping to the beehive
Shoot shoot shoot”

“Moop bears, dead or alive
Moop bears, shoot shoot shoot”

Later in the song, a reference to a killing machine reinforces the feeling that this is about war, stringing all the pigs up in the pursuit of “horrible work”.

“Moop bah pre ga gazol
Moop moop killing machine
Clumping to the beehive
Shoot shoot shoot

Moop bears, dead or alive
Stringing all the pigs up
Stab stab stab
Nag nag nag
Stab stab stab
Nag nag nag
Coochy coochy coo
Horrible work”

The beats and the samples come and go, ending with the percussion toyed with by John Talaga, warping into the following song, on the face of it more accessible but much darker.

Frilly Military

A song written for Kahimi Karie, released by her but not on an album, instead on a small CD accompanying her lyrics book (entitled I’m Gonna Tear My Playhouse Down!), sounding perhaps even more psychotic and deranged for being sung by Momus instead. The dissociation between the lyrical content and the “frilly” very catchy melody is disorienting, yet a video recorded by Momus of him cycling around Kyoto while miming the song is very charming. The song begins with the chirpy riff that beds the song played on guitar, with a sample of a shout introducing the lyric, sung/spoken with electronic phasing and auto-tune over it, a robot singing a pop song. A bass line joins half way through this stanza, underlying the shock and dissonance of the final line.

“I’ll be your frilly military lady
Your long-haired lover from France
Meet me in an electronic Liverpool
At an electronic dance
Wearing padded shoulders in a padded cell
Throwing phone numbers in a wishing well
I’ll join the frilly military, what the hell
It’s got to be good for a laugh
See you in the acid bath”

The “long haired lover from France” refers to the song Long Haired Lover From Liverpool by Little Jimmy Osmond, a novelty hit in the UK from 1972. At the time of the song, male “long hair” was still a relative shock, a reversal of gender norms, which is played with during the song and this verse in particular, as the song written for a woman makes Momus a frilly, military lady with shoulder pads. Liverpool – here an electronic, futurist Liverpool, stands in for a place of creation and revolution as well as some kind of psychosis. The madness of the singer is acknowledged as they pledge to “see us in the acid bath”. Faster percussion joins the song for the second verse, the sexual confusion continues:

“Last one to the blackboard is a hairy pig
Hairy like a pig in the zoo
Bet that I can beat you in a fairy wig
Playing on a strawberry kazoo
Cos I’m the big sister that you never had
Beating up on brother making fun of dad
The best big bully that you never had
You can pull on my pony tail
If you want to spend your life in jail
You can pull on my pony tail
If you want to spend your life in jail”

The instrumental has howling feedback against the percussive backdrop, the guitar squall is perhaps inspired by work from Bowie’s albums of the late 70s, the Frippery of Scary Monsters. It certainly underlines the psychological issues screaming behind the apparently pretty facade of the song. There is some cheerful and carefree whistling over this, of course.

“Flirty’s what they call me at the convent school
Dirty’s what I’m called on the street
Puffing on a spliff on Alexanderplatz
Or a bergamot cheroot
Long haired lovers from Liverpool
Truckers made of sugar by the swimming pool
I’ll join the frilly military, what the hell
You can pull on my pony tail
But you’ll have to spend your life in jail”

The word “jail” descends to a different note than expected, and John Talaga takes the song into a minor key plunge, the song crackles and fizzes underwater for a few seconds, looped and sickening, then is let up to the light out of psychosis just to complete the chorus. Again, the sinister mention of an acid bath, military self annihilation, and an abrupt end. The song seems to promise mutual but well intentioned destruction, madness and a folie a deux. It’s clear thought that these songs and lyrics are more elliptical than we are used to: the Googlepop Aleph combined with found and random lyrics inevitably makes things difficult to follow. On the other hand, this is an enormously catchy song and a highlight of the album.

“Wearing padded shoulders in a padded cell
Throwing phone numbers down a wishing well
I’ll be your frilly military what the hell
It’s got to be good for a laugh
See you in the acid bath”

The Birdcatcher

Added late on in the process of recording the album is this mid-90s song: originally entitled The Kitten’s Telephone and included within the Stop This! project. The opening sample of Muzak takes us to the sixties, and to a mixture of thunder and heat. The lyrics are dark and desolate, as the beat, 80s influenced and sterile, takes us to a parade of horrific imagery which mocks popular culture via a particularly dark episode of U.S. history.

The Birdcatcher of Hell is a play, “structured around a Japanese kyogen- the comic interlude between acts of classical Noh drama.” ( It is about the pardoning by Richard Nixon of Lt. William Caulley, who was court martialled for the My Lai massacre in 1968. It was performed by the Bread + Puppet Theatre group in 1971.

“After the ritual suicide of Mr Mickey Mouse
On his outrageous throne of blood in Cinderella’s House
On the blue suburban line I met a careless god
Past the pines by the glassy meadow
Where the coaches jerk a little
The bird catcher of Hades took his net of flesh and bone
The headless horse was talking on the kitten’s telephone
In the house of horrors I had recently burnt down”

The chorus is more upbeat, but still deeply sinister. Another mid-90s song which referenced Mantovani was The Loneliness of Lift Music, about a killer. Muzak is both meaningless and ignorable and yet has the strength to shape an environment and atmosphere, giving it a sinister quality, of having no qualities yet imbuing its surroundings with exactly those qualities it does not have.

“It was a stormy night for the tartan babes on a rocky mountain track
When a Bonnie Prince Charlie car commercial went shooting back
And the cast members at Disneyland were all electric with anger
I could just about hear my Walkman playing Mantovani through the thunder”

The lyrics seem to address the massacre implicit in the play’s content and contrast these with the supposed innocence of aspects of U.S. culture.

“The bird catcher of Hades with his book of gold and straw
Eros lends Massacre assistance with the saw
First blood of little girls, a cupboard where you hide
Pause at Charlie Chaplin’s fountain
Climb across a cardboard mountain”

The stanza below is amusingly quoted in this exchange:

“Dr Selbert Lanolin and his troope of chimpanzees
Who plan to take the world over with a television series
Have found the gene responsible for Scientology”

And the chorus repeats, its indictment repeated. There’s a sense of loss in the song, of a lost time, lost innocence, lost Bonnie Prince Charlie, a betrayal of ideals. It has to be said that the “friendly album” has so far been rather sinister and dark, the next song is beautiful but is also haunted.

Nervous Heartbeat

The theme here is simple: Momus misses Hisae, detained for visa reasons, and this song expresses that. There is deeper analysis that can be made: is the apparent coolness of the delivery masking a genuine and heartfelt emotion that breaks through that mask, a hot person seeming cold? Or is it the opposite, an outburst of emotion masking an actual coolness which is being disguised? Or is it an expression of both, an admission that we are hot and cold at the same time, quanta of emotion only identifiable when observed? In this sense it might almost be a piece to compare to Ice King, from Tender Pervert, which deals with similar contradictions. What is undeniable is that Nervous Heartbeat is a stunning song, another potential single.

The opening strings, which are also used throughout, are sampled from a song by Teresa Teng, a Taiwanese singer and superstar of Asian music during from 1966 till her death in 1995. Teng was famous enough that she has been brought back to life as a “virtual human” by a company called Digital Domain, as below.

After the strings, a slow beat accompanies the lyrics, which use auto-tune. The words are Japanese onomatopoeia, and I have to trust Momus that the translations – his own – are accurate. The lines are sung sincerely/in pretence of sincerity/both at once (delete according to your own interpretation), and climb along a beautiful chain of chords to the final assertion of the “beat of my heart”, which allows the strings to play again.

Incidentally, an initial and casual hearing without lyrics might lead a Takashi Miike devotee to mishear one line as kirikiri, which would change the tone of the song entirely…

“Crying, shiku shiku
Reluctantly, shibu shibu
Repeatedly, tabi tabi
Just in time, giri giri
Hara hara, nervous heartbeat
Kira kira, glittering sparkle
Chika chika, the flickering light of the stars
Doki doki, the hammering beat of my heart”

In the second verse, it is hard not to feel there is some personal work being done by the songwriter “I’m messed up, but you laugh” is hard to consider as an insincere statement of any form. Thunder, rain and lightning again appear, a theme common to Momus’ songs and always a signifier of heat, passion and restrained emotion. This leads to a final, surely heartfelt plea: “when will I see you again?” which leads to a further playthrough of the main riff.

I’m messed up, mecha mecha
But you laugh, gera gera
In the lightning, goro goro
And your eyes, pika pika
Kisu kisu by the river
Gusha gusha, that flows so slow
Zaa zaa, in the sound of the pouring rain
Chiku chiku, when will I see you again?

The strings play again, are allowed this time to fully resolve and the song fades out with a mechanical whirring, the heartbeat broken down, masks removed.


The track opens with what is a Nazi radio call sign, pretty as an ice-cream truck, which reminds me of the OMD album Dazzle Ships, which traded in similar imagery but from behind the iron curtain of the Cold War.

The music here is medieval sounding, the track is similar in its atmosphere to the song Sempreverde from Otto Spooky. The original version of the song was recorded for the Mashroom Haircat album with Emi Necozawa. The 2001 version was faster, brighter sounding and less effective for that. Slowing it down, having Momus sing the song in a more dazed way brings out the sinister and potentially abusive nature of the people in the song. Above all, a Dialtone is a dead line: either no-one has answered or someone has hung up, so the initial simile describes dead and empty eyes and a failing relationship.

“Eyes clear as dialtone
Are you at home? Are you alone?
I call on the phone
Where have you gone, are you out on the street
Dead on your feet, or harvesting wheat?
My introvert are you out chasing skirt?
Singing fiddle me rum
Fiddle me dumb
Your lady in her antechamber”

The double tracked vocal is unsettling as always, a dual personality seems to come through. “Corkscrewing” may be a reference back to the Corkscrew King of the previous album, an intimation of impotence for the cuckold. The references to flighted animals – turtledove, nightingale, quivertail, suggest something always moving and hard to hold down in any kind of monogamy. The Viscompte de Lisle is presumably fictional but would, if alive, live in Kent in filth and sin.

“Turtledove, my quivertail
My purple head, my nightingale
My corkscrewing fool
Cuckold, coxcomb is it me who’s insane
Or is it you who’s got sex on the brain?
Always discreet, always obscene
The Viscompte de Lisle is calling me still
Your lady in her antechamber”

The third verse is lonely, jealous and far too keen to talk about blood. The singer attacks the partner who is out with “some cow”, almost threatening and certainly obssessed.

“And time is passing
And you don’t call, and my crest falls
So where are you now?
Out with some cow at some Japanese inn
Opening pork cooked in its skin
Pouring red wine like blood down a string
Singing fiddle me rum
Fiddle me dumb
Your lady in her antechamber”

“Eyes clear as dialtone
Here comes the queen
Always discreet, always obscene
Pushing her luck like the pig who got stuck
Don’t think she hasn’t got men queuing up
The Marquis of Rochdale’s not here for good luck
Singing fiddle me rum
Fiddle me dumb
Your lady in her antechamber”

The final verse has the most obvious insults, unveiled attacks on the “queen”, and the song on the whole fully enjoys playing with meanings and intimations of the word “fiddle”. The album remains, to this point, rather degenerate and sinister rather than friendly, the randomly created or juxtaposed lyrics bringing dark connotations along with them. The empty eyes – “blue but nobody home”, no doubt, are back again, the whole song at odds with its relatively cheerful melodies, akin to the Bowie songs it is inspired by.

Hang Low

The promised “friendliness” finally arrives with this song, which begins sprightly and positive. The inspiration is an Italo-disco pop song called Get Closer by Valerie Dore. The orientalism of Bambou/Gainsbourg also comes through, as the piece aims to sound like an Asian, specifically Chinese, pop song. The jaunty guitar and percussion opens the song and Momus’ vocals are echoed and double tracked, but warm sounding. The song uses the typical trick of the time of including vinyl crackle to to signify warmth and credibility. Sampled strings are used to give further warmth and the chorus adds further percussion.

“I’ve set my heart on being good
Very friendly
And I will carve my heart of wood
Splendid splendid”

“I’ll ride a dragon made of jade
And speak no evil
I think it’s strange to be afraid
We’re only people”

The chorus may be deliberately echoing the Google motto “Don’t be evil”: the aeroplane references are literal: Momus describes his feelings of plane travel as sentimentality and frailty, but necessary journeys to Japan to see Hisae.

“So hang low, hang low
And do no evil
Like aeroplanes on snow
We’re only people
Make sure the tray tables are stowed
To have here or to go?
And now the blossom fails to show
For we are landing”

The second verses include more sound effects, sounding as if from computer games, representing fast travel. (Hopefully no enemies are nearby.) “Spousy Piety” represents his relationship status, the respect with which he approaches the “ancient rite” of lovemaking.

“On every lovely yellow night
With spousy piety
I shall perform the ancient rite
With due sobriety

And each uncomplicated thing
Is never-ending
And every lovely song you sing
Is all-befriending”

The next chorus leads into an instrumental section with travel announcements over it. The following verse reminds us of the blue guitar, and adds another mode of transport while the desperation of being apart from his lover floods in.

“And I will catch a Eurostar
At Waterloo station
And I will play my blue guitar
In desperation”

The chorus is repeated, with the extra sound effects and instrumentation that has been added, then ends with the song floating away on the strings, sampled singing and backing fading out. Hang Low is one of the most effective songs on the album, accurate in its friendliness, the sensation of flying it incorporates and still mindful of the melancholy that comes from being apart.


A gentle opening, picked guitar and reference to Italian poetry indicate more happiness to celebrate on the album. Torquato Tasso wrote a mythical poem about the Crusades, and in the opening verse seems to have a relationship with Hiawatha of the Iriquois. The second verse has a melody the reverse of the opening, and seems to suggest a romance in stranger climes. The lyrics are more google-pop, translated hither and thither.

Your own Torquato Tasso
Born to treat you well
With his Hiawatha
His own private gazelle

Your Borneo adventure
Your best non-corvid bird
He’s the praying mantis
Tangled in your skirt

The musical pattern repeats, the Scaramouche, a clown character of commedia dell’arte, seems to collide with an Icarusesque insect, but collides only with an infinite pleasure.

“Scaramouche the shepherd
Beauty leg number one
The bee that blunders densely
Blunders to the sun

Then comes the permagasm
And oh, you’ve come so long
Your white bird flying up from
The chasm of the sun”

A little buzzing keyboard sound is added, with little glitches added by John Talaga at the end of this section, distracting the song and the singer from their pleasure and the object of their love. The “Inner Mongolian…” section of lyric mistranslated from Chinese Pop Idol (Pop-Idol being the protozoic incarnation of X-Factor).

“Your own Torquato Tasso
Your shepherd and your flute
The bronze drum on your hillside
The oven on your roof
My own “Inner Mongolian
Cow Sour Yoghurt Supergirl”
The core of all agreement
Softer than the world”

Drums then fade in, percussion and beats sampled from the opening of the song Bitter Heart by Seona Dancing, the new-wave pop duo formed by Ricky Gervais with someone called Bill Macrae and active from 82-84. (Their other reasonably well known song More to Lose was a big hit in the Philippines, but this was not enough to maintain a career.) Gervais went on to work in music management, then ultimately as a comedy writer and performer.

The chorus is repeated along with the opening verse, which is looped and glitches out into slowed down noise, to link straight into the following track.


Enka is a style of Japanese music, known for using the pentatonic scale, melisma and sentimental lyrics, based on ballad forms dating back to the 19th century. Particularly popular in the 50s and 60s, it still has echoes today in modern J-Pop. An enka song used in a Shiseido commercial: Kosetsu Minami’s Yume Hitoyo (“One Night’s Dream”) inspired this track. The lyrics were more Babelfished content from Rinko Kawauchi’s diaries.

This gives the lyrics created in this way a dream-like quality, drifting from heartfelt sentiment properly expressed to surreal poorly translated imagery, a “howl of flower-bulbs”, an explosion of pleasantness. There are contradictions of mood: the surety of “You pose as evil because you are afraid”, but the pliance of “the bamboo being delicate”. Despite the lyrics, the music is spooky, othering, with electronics, discordant notes, echoing voices. The beauty of the melody does come through however, and ends with the strange declaration of “Enters uniformly in the favourite food.” Pleasantness is a contradiction, needing contrast. It is a strange condition, maybe even something to fear.

Devil Mask, Buddha Mind

The second part of the album begins as the first did, with a tone poem which itself has reference to the Spooky Kabuki of Oskar Tennis Champion. As the title suggests the lyrics are a kind of Buddhist prayer, koan like, intended to have no meaning and all meaning. Flutes, wind instruments and chimes take us to a mountain monastery. The initial words are spoken, as a poem.

The nose water it has been sought with favour
Somebody says what we’re already all thinking
And we laugh

The prayer is sung, multi-tracked, a prayer about shining, about clouded and uncertain faces, contradictions, feelings.

Kao ga kumotte iru
Kao ga kagayaite iru
Kangaibukai kao
Kimen busshin

Ca sent si bon

The song fades out, echoing, layered, we are sent back, in time and to the world, and to the next track, which Momus describes as a collection of “hesitant songs-being-composed”, a taster menu.

7000 B.C.

7000 B.C. is intended as a collection of ideas, half composed segments and whimsicality along the lines of The Incredible String Band – their piece A Very Cellular Song is a reference point. Other influences are Satyajit Ray, Indian film director, and the film Rockers, directed by Ted Bafaloukos, a 1978 film set in Kingston about the reggae community. The song begins with looped samples and a folksy melody over which Momus sings, slightly surreal imagery, drily amusing scenarios.

“Solve a Chinese puzzle
Make a Chinese box
Pour ink into the milk jug
Of a Wedgewood cement mixer
Play chess with a monkey
Let the monkey win
Visit Antwerp briefly
Staying at the Winter Inn”

The second section is slower, perhaps a prettier melody, which breaks down briefly in the middle, remaining elliptical, the meaning fairly irrelevant as the ideas of pleasure are outlined.

“When your eyes have come back to your eye pits after draw
Will you knit a scale model of the Alps from white wool?
Will you do a bit of reading or fish about for squid?
Will you take a pad for scribbling or money in a grid?”

“ba ba” vocals, similar to those we have heard before, are in the background of the next section, which is reminiscent of older Momus songs such as Ballad of the Barrel Organist, similarly.

“And the flickery tubes drinking spilly tea
The Calcutta book dealer reads the history of the drupe
The house pet and the pet plant fight through your apartment
The lion and the unicorn, Jamaica and Tibet
The house is washing dishes
The house is pulling sand
And the click-click thermometer
Virtue and responsibility”

Momus had been thinking about farming of pistachio nuts, it would seem, and writes about it: with the higher falsetto voice of the eunuch, perhaps, the bantam boy.

“Shells split well
You open them by hand
One pistachio tree
Can live for centuries I understand
The Caucases pistachio grows in Asia Minor”

The song concludes with previous lines and finally refers to 7000 BC, the beginning of civilisation, history, beer and pottery around this time. We “shake the tree”, to cause reform, to initiate change (although Urban Dictionary suggests it relates to onanism, as it does most things).

“When your eyes have come back to your eye pits after draw
Will you knit a scale model of the Alps from white wool?
Will you do a bit of reading or fish about for squid?
Under flickery tubes drinking spilly tea
7000 BC
Shake the tree”

The conclusion is remixed by Talaga, beats and siren noises rendering the vaguely sinister air of the song into sonic complexity, and the ambiguity we would expect.


A heavy bass, clacking percussion and slow drifting melody and mood life this song above the obscurity of its lyrics. The underlying chords are quite alike to Greensleeves, but the spiritual feeling it generates allows it to generate genuine emotion out of what is on the face of it meaningless. The lyrics are Bowie-referencing, random, on the verge of coherence. There is yearning in the face of eternity, the feeling of lost love:

“Autumn is warm
These are my golden years
Roll on a casino of shadows
At the Ocean del Sol
Fortune is long
But these are the older years
When the waterfall spider sparkles
And turns like a clock in the dark”

The song brings to mind faded glamour, a person who walks with past glories to rely on.

“Far from the spring
Sit in a barber’s chair
Still bringing glamour
To towns where the hammer must fall
Feminine man
Tall in the evening air
With the Zulu who walks with you always by your side”

The darkness, mortality of age and decay seems to follow around, and yes, there are Beatles and Queen references seemingly embedded along with the golden years and (presumably) glass spiders.

“And the pain goes
And explain those
Spiders are building their webs across
Skulls’ eyes in the dark
Far from springtime
In a barber’s chair
Time to pull on the face that you keep in a jar by the door”

Zanzibar seems to be a stand-in for fantasy, for some exotic far away utopia, but still a utopia for ghosts and those whose time has gone. To “slipper away” is a good phrase, sliding noiselessly and cat like away with, indeed, a “cradle of cats”, which should be a death metal band name.

“Galloping ghosts
Take me to Zanzibar
Forward and forward
The chargers they’re charging
In dreams at least
Rallying round
The faces of every old ghost
In a postage stamp world
We slipper away with a cradle of cats”

I wonder if the “postage stamp world” implies that the world has shrunk, the lack of magic in far-away places now you can reach them so easily. Yet love remains in the cynical man, who loves the laughter and brains of the girl in the hat.

“In a postage stamp world
There is nothing yet left to believe in
For a fox-hunting man
Who has sold all his clothes to the slave trade
You are lovely in face, love me in body and everything
You’ve got laughter and brains
And I love you so much in your hat”

Finally the chorus is repeated, and there is a breakdown, Talaga allows a reggae beat to play in the background and synth noise effects to fade out with the song. The reggae beat is entirely appropriate for the next track.

Count Ossie in China

A heavy bass again, introducing synths which remain rooted in the east but now have a reggae backing, a sultry concoction and mixture with nonsense lyrics ostensibly from Count Ossie but actually Google nonsense and mistranslation. Count Ossie was a Jamaican musician/drummer and band leader of the 50s and 60s, inspirational to many, and who sadly died in 1976 aged 50, in a road accident. The lyrics reference his and Prince Buster’s produced original version of Oh Carolina, and his own masterwork triple album Grounation. The lyrics are delivered in a Jamaican accent and patois, the same accent of The Madness of Lee Scratch Perry. We may have hoped never to hear this accent again, and Momus is clearly quite aware of this and probably using it just to annoy me. As the song ends we hear a bit of what sounds like cabaret style music, appropriate for the next couple of songs.

Dr. Cat.

At heart this is a sound collage, made with field recordings, underground trains and the like, clocks. It is bass driven again, with a vocal effect over Momus: the sung melody is very catchy, and the marimba like sounds accompanying it bring the Otto Spooky song Belvedere to mind. The lyrics are partly: “optical text scanning mistakes made by someone keeping a collection of Brian Eno interviews”: a kind of cut up language using as its source a song writer often at odds with the idea of meaning in lyrics.

“Dr Cat is disillusioned with
A new cloud arriving
Cock-a-leekie soup, so
Cock a doodle do
Dr Cat is going bathing with
A thousand robe child
Consideration in the forest
Correct happiness”

The chorus uses a magazine ratings system to discuss different types of friends: the pleasantness of friendship is also a kind of transaction, from the essential and spectacular to those you just know you will “meet again”.

“Essential and spectacular, incredible friends
Exceptional — will rank amongst my all-time ten
Very good, above average, enjoyable friends
Not that brilliant, but I know we’ll meet again”

“Ocky” is a nonsense word, no doubt, but could mean various things. Australian slang for an Octopus, Philadelphia slang for something fake, related to the Norse word Ock itself a source for the name Oscar, a corruption of the word Ock to mean a shop owner in New York, itself a corruption of an Arabic word for brother. All of these are equally valid interpretations of intent.

“Ocky Milkman’s wife
Had an enormous roofgasm
She rides a sorry Walkman
Sniffing mint or metal
On a fir-fetched coast
At an airport fury free shop
Black rice, short green rice
Dwarf wheat and random bread”

The song breaks down for the spoken section below, with cut up sound effects and field noises.

“While recording this song to a Grundig TK-145, external sounds had been introduced. A careful person may notice the tick-tocks of a clock!”

The chorus is drowned out by those noises, and Momus vocalises the melody once more, before the chorus takes us into a sudden stop. Given the quirkiness of this lyric and melody, and the sounds of music hall we have enjoyed, it is entirely appropriate that the next song is entirely in this vein.

I Refuse to Die

From the absolutely esoteric to the resolutely exoteric: this is a very straightforward song with a very straightforward theme: death sucks. It is based around George Formby’s ukelele and was originally composed for the Otto Spooky album. It is a song which only gets more relevant as time goes on. It is a theme that of course is regularly addressed in his songs, from the earliest work to the most current, compare this with Death Ruins Everything from Hypnoprism, for instance. The ukulele is backed by a great syncopated percussive backing, siren, handclaps and samples.

“Death comes for all
But I plan to be out when he calls
Out sunbathing in the snow
But don’t tell Death I told you so
I refuse to die!”

The reaper came to say I had to die
I said “Sorry, Grim, some other time!”
I said “Old Miss Bryce who lives next door
Go ask her, she’s 104!”
I refuse to die!”

The bouncy rhythm, nostalgic and vintage sound are reminiscent of The Real Tuesday Weld’s antique beat as typified on their I, Lucifer album, particularly the instrumental Bathtime in Clerkenwell. Mortality and eternity are similar themes on that album as well.

“I will not bow to the reaper’s scythe
I’ll ride away on a Triumph motorbike
I don’t have time, see, I’ve got plans
I’ve gotta build a house on the Morecambe Sands
I refuse to die!”

“Well you can take your hourglass and your scythe
And stick it in a place where the sun don’t shine
I won’t go easy into the night
I will not go without a fight
I refuse to die!”

The middle eight has Momus adopting a rather lower class voice, (listen to his pronunciation of better) and signifying that life, above all, beats annihilation.

“Life may not be spiffy every day
But it’s a damn sight better than rotting clean away!”

The song ends with several declarations of intent: Blackpool was the setting for many of Formby’s songs, although he was born in Wigan in Lancashire, the seaside and saucy seaside humour were the basis of his act.

“I’d rather chase scallops on the Blackpool sands
I’d rather play Scrabble my thyroid glands
I’ll be in a deckchair by the sea
I’d rather be at Lyon’s drinking tea
I’d rather be just about anywhere
Than lying in a coffin in my underwear
I refuse to die!”

The song is remixed and distorted by sounds once this last chorus is sung, the lyrics reversed and cut in and out. Talaga uses echo and reverberation to disorient and confuse the listener, then the ending is abrupt and we are taken into the beautiful closing of the album.


Jane Birkin’s third solo album was written by Serge Gainsbourg and featured the song Ex fan-des-sixties, a song espousing nostalgia for the sixties, despairing of the singer’s lost idols: “Que sont devenues toutes tes idoles?”. Incidentally, Birkin’s album is arranged by Alan Hawkshaw, the composer of Chicken Man (the original theme music to BBC classic Grange Hill), and one time member of The Shadows, who are name checked in the song.

Momus’ response (actually written in 2003) is a melancholy ode to the passing of libido in middle age, like Corkscrew King this is a requiem to male sexuality. Although hardly autobiographical – Momus was certainly still many of the things listed below – the song provides a darkly humorous ending to the album, as is often the case with his albums, similar to The Artist Overwhelmed from Otto Spooky and The Man You’ll Never Be on Joemus.

There is something fascinating about defining oneself in terms of ex-characteristics. To define yourself in terms of things that you no longer are, that you have either failed in or rejected, or been forced to abjure. It seems a strange thing, for instance, that I am an ex-smoker, defining myself by something I don’t want to do anymore. But then again, when we do define a term for a state of abstinence, such as celibate or teetotal, it sounds pompous and preachy, and still places a lack of something at the core of a definition of what we are.

To say we are ex- anything brings a shadow of longing for that thing, a regret at its loss. The regret of the unblemished soul entering heaven, that will never feel the thrill of earthly sin. We regret what we didn’t do, not what we did, and how much worse to regret not doing something any more, to have done it for the last time. That is certainly the feeling in the lyrics of this song.

The gentle tune, with sampled instrumentation playing softly in the background, and percussion, builds slowly. Momus voices the list of ex- characteristics, softly, close-in. An erotomane, an erotomaniac, in denial. The melody underlying the song circles and rises.

“Ex-fake, ex-rake
Ex-charmer of the snake
Ex-libertine, ex-on-the-make

The instruments burst forward, louder, insistent. Sarcastic as well, as “ex-gay” seems a call back to The Homosexual.

“Ex-player, ex-pimpernel
Ex-gay, ex-ne’er-do-well
Ex-feeler-up and rubber down

As a string sound is added to the mix, the song changes key and this derives further tension. The playful use of “coprophile” maybe a sly reference back to Maf from Stars Forever? A scopophile is a voyeur. The Blue Riders were a set of artists led by Kandinsky and Franz Marc, also a painting by Kandinsky showing a man cloaked in blue riding a horse through a meadow, moving from the real world to a fantasy life. Momus is certainly a nippoholic by which he means a lover of Japanese culture, and hentai is a form of sexually explicit manga.

“Ex-coprophile, ex-scopophile
Ex-Blue Rider, ex-sarcophagus defiler
Ex-sympathetic, nippoholic hentai maniac

The described perversions become more extreme and more surreal now. Dog was the nickname of Diogenes the philosopher – a cynic. “Shrew Tamer” is a Shakespearean reference to The Taming of the Shrew, where a shrew is a bad-tempered woman. Gokkun and Bukakke are terms referring to the consumption of sperm or covering someone in sperm – generally from multiple partners.

“Ex-excessive masturbator
Ex-dog Diogenes
Shrew tamer, extoller of the high priapic vices
Ex-gokkun princess white pearl necklace sperm bukakke jeweller

“Ex-retailer of tales, ex tittle-tattle vendor
Of dubious encounters and curious sexual failure
Ex-stallion, ex-tooler
Excalibur, ex-ruler

A kind of desperation comes into the voice now, which raises to meet the melody. He compares himself to other tantric practitioners here, maybe thinking of Sting.

“Ecstatic, whose license has expired
Ex-romantic, extinguisher of fires
Ex-tantric, ex-frantic
Ex-fanatic ex-eccentric

“Ex-inventor, ex-liar
Ex-Johnny pants-on-fire
Extoller of the vices
Controller of the prices
Ex-wanker, ex-drinker
Ex-penetrating thinker

In this verse he describes what he now actually is, but in an insulting way. In English vernacular to call someone a “total…” is usually followed by an insult.

“Ex-fucker, ex-baller
Ex-obscene phone caller
Now cleaned up, teetotaler
A total tea drinker
Ex-funky ex-junkie, reborn

The final verse is almost verging towards the spiritual, thinking about God, the fun-loving St. Augustine from various Momus songs, most notably Saved.

“Forward thinker, ethicist
Living proof that God exists
Ex-unicorn ex-horn
Ex-stallion, ex-porn
Ex-fisher king of pretty teens
Exhausted Saint Augustine

This is followed by feedback, buzzing and then violin sounds, white noise and finally the same guitar note that opens the album, circling the whole thing around and back to the Moop Bears.


Ocky Milk is certainly an improvement on Otto Spooky, more coherent, thematic and gifted with excellent melodies and pop songs. It is also, however, quite experimental, especially in its second half, and the use of what are essentially randomly generated lyrics threaten to distance it from the listener. This – to some extent – does not matter where the music itself is strong enough to carry the intended effects of drifting, pleasant diversion and spiritual exchange. On the other hand, unlike many of Momus’ albums, the lyrics seem merely part of the scenery, the mood is more important than the narrative, and the album feels very much sui generis: not really part of the culture of the time, or reflecting it. This is not a bad thing, just indicative of the kind of work Momus did at the time. At any rate, I enjoy much of it, the “half-lit tenderness” as Momus describes it, of having your back scratched gently by a “schizoid vampire”.

I got married (again) in 2005. You might recall that my first wife (Polish, unfaithful) was asked out to coffee by Mr Momus around 1998 – should have seen the signs really: together in 1998, married in 2000, divorced in 2002. Once married to my second wife, we had a child in 2009: I think that the continuing themes of promiscuity and, shall we say, outreach which this album dealt with began to connect less with me. Pleasantness and Happiness are provided within marriage and once there are children to both contend with and devote essentially all your time and money to, listening to songs about running away on Eurostar or flying away to the East for priapic adventure become, if anything, quite irritating. It was also around the time that Momus moved into writing books, and for a time I think he intended to make music a secondary outlet for his talents: that never really happened, in fact his output of music increased.

I downloaded the next album, Joemus, and that was the last Momus album I really listened to for a few years. I returned at the time of Bowie’s passing, Brexit and Trump. So onto Joemus, and then onto albums that I haven’t heard at all, or possibly only in passing, until we reach the more recent work, which I have been very much aware of.

2 thoughts on “See you in the acid bath… #26 Ocky Milk

  1. Wow! You have so much left to discover … 🙂

    The damned thing about Momus is he still keeps writing amazing songs. I think as you get into the 2010s he gets more prolific. And albums get more baggy and uneven. He has so many ideas that each album is 20 odd songs, not all of which can be classic.

    But there are still so many songs in that period that are way beyond almost anyone else you can imagine. For my money anyone who wrote Data Panik, Strawberry Hill, System of Usher, Precocious Young Miss Calloway, Gibbous Moon, Moral Mountain, Ass, Old Nick, Year Zero, Burning the Flag, Grand Guignol, Facial Recognition, Oblivion, Working from Home, The Hydra etc. would already be one of the great song-writers.

    Even ignoring everything before 2010. It’s just insane …


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s