Pioneering Scottish indie-funkster issues third album in two years.
Paul Lester 2009-11-20
Considering the band that he fronted, Josef K, earned their reputation as groundbreaking guitar funksters based on just one album, The Only Fun In Town, before splitting in 1981, Paul Haig has been surprisingly prolific of late. Relive is his third long-player since 2007, following on from Electronik Audience and 2008’s Go Out Tonight. Not bad from a man who once vowed never to sing or perform onstage again.
Then again, the inscrutable Haig was hardly inactive during the intervening quarter-century or so: experiments as a solo artist with electro-pop, soundtrack music and techno, and collaborations with everyone from New York hip hop whiz Kurtis Mantronik to the late, lamented Billy Mackenzie of Associates may not have enhanced the legend, but they did suggest that a lack of focus may not necessarily be a hindrance, unless it’s simple commercial rewards you’re after.
Relive is a fine addition to what is increasingly looking like a collectable body of work. It’s the sort of sound, based on a blend of programming and “real-time playing”, of ‘traditional’ (guitar, bass, drums) and electronic equipment, that New Order once purveyed – dark dancefloor pop, all nagging riffs, swirling synths, off-kilter melodies and crisp production. As ever it’s all sung by Haig in his inimitable dour post-punk-Sinatra croon, one that tends to make his every utterance sound like he’s exploring existential issues at the deepest level.
In fact, Relive is a concept of sorts, apparently conceived as a mini-road movie; the title, according to Haig, is about “the eternal search for truth and meaning”. Opener Trip Out the Rider moves at a brisk pace and has the urgency of Josef K’s classic The Missionary, and a cover version of the Pere Ubu song Horses is similarly sprightly. The itchy title tune, Relive, has creepy lyrics about roadkill and horror films while Ambition, written 20 years ago, is about the cult of celebrity and obsession with fame. Haig calls So Contemporary “a wee bit of twee for a laugh” but, like virtually everything here, it builds to a momentum that is no joke. Round and Round was co-written with Josef K’s Malcolm Ross and is the kind of clipped, dislocated guitar funk that makes today’s likes of Franz Ferdinand worship at that truly seminal Postcard band’s altar.
New acts could do worse than look to Haig’s current output for inspiration, such is the man’s continuing streak of creativity.