John Hurrell – 29 December, 2018
These guys attain coolness by being uncool, an ‘art group' that in some songs celebrates Jane Austen and Handel and being over fifty. In a peculiar way they are avant-garde writers because they force you to discover new beauty in things normally despised—like say, the chemicals found in hand sanitising liquid, listed and recited in the comic by Andy Warhol.
Comic with CD
Using the considerable drawing skills of its two gifted musicians—Aotearoa-based Mr. Pudding (Bryce Galloway) and Germany-based EE Monk (Daniel Powell)—Wendyhouse (a band which has been going since 1992) here uses the speech bubble format of comics to inventively showcase the lyrics of twenty-four songs that make up three EPs from 2010, 2014 and 2016.
While there are plenty of gorgeous chord progressions and grunty solo instrumentation in these short, often haunting, pop tunes, what I’m really impressed with is the love of language, its aural textures and cadences that are not strictly beholden to any logical strictures of meaning. After enjoying the cartoon presentation in conjunction with the music and lyrics, you can put the 46 page comic to one side and just drift with the music and free associative lyrics. You can enjoy the poetry and humour without anticipating the presence of ‘serious’ philosophy. Yet there is nothing trivial either. The ‘nonsense’ is absorbing.
These guys attain coolness by being uncool, an ‘art group’ that in some songs celebrates Jane Austen and Handel and being over fifty. In a peculiar way they are avant-garde writers because they force you to discover new beauty in things normally despised—like say, the chemicals found in hand sanitising liquid, listed and recited in the comic by Andy Warhol. There are also ranting discussions about the disempowering consequences of the over-used word ‘fuck’, or a deconstruction of the term ‘assets’: its form and its meaning. It is agile writing, tumbling rollicking (often improvised) language—rich in its multiple political, filmic and art historical references—that keeps on surprising.
One treat is a burbling recitation by a stunted version of Johnny (played by David Thewlis), the (normally lean) embittered thuggish intellectual-motormouth from Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993). The chopped-up wandering language about getting dressed and breakfast, in the soporific Mogadon Blues, goes: lack of sleep, too small, prescription drugs, too big, recreational drug taking, hard soles, nuclear fallout, back to front, processed foods, Inside out, use-by-date, wedding train, close quarters, starch, and flies.
I like the avoidance of a conventional narrative, though of course an understated one is there (sort of). When not central characters from famous films or art historical periods, ants or fleas instead have meandering soliloquies or debates. Brilliantly entertaining and thoughtful.
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