[record reviews: roadwork vol 1 /
let them eat cake]
'ROADWORK VOL I: HEAVY METAL IZ A POZE, HARDT ROCK IZ A LAIFSCHTEIL, LIVE IN EUROPE 1998'
'LET THEM EAT CAKE'
Double review of Roadwork Vol 1 and Let Them Eat Cake
At the risk of incurring the wrath of our esteemed editor, here's a voice that says that Norway's greatest rock band of at least the last 10 years, maybe all time, have been given scandalously poor coverage in this august journal. Especially given that McMuff's something of a Scandinavian rock buff and that our venerable publisher is something of an avid Motorpsycho fan himself!
1999's 'Roadwork Vol 1' (complete with Grand Funk Railroad sleeve proof) was a long time coming. Total masters of their craft in the studio to be certain, but equally at home on the live stage, we've had to wait the best part of a decade for Trondheim's finest to release a proper live set. Culled from May 98 gigs in Leipzig, Berlin and Utrecht, this'll do fine, a deadly accurate representation of Motorpsycho at full throttle as their mighty silver machine takes us soaring into the new millenium. Motorpsycho are many different things to many different people but first and foremost they're a fabulous rock'n'roll band - and that's what comes across here. Though a little disappointed by their London show in '98, I couldn't help but mentally compare them to the Who (1970 era) in terms of both inventiveness and sheer power as they tore up 'Young Man Blues' on stage at the Garage that night - furious stuff. And the only other band in the summer of '70 who could hold a candle to the 'Oo was the MC5 - so check out Motorpsycho's version of 'Black To Comm' here - it holds up surprisingly well to the turbo-powered original.
However the piece de resistance on Roadwork Vol 1 has to be the extended 'A K9 Suite' which confirms that messrs Saether, Gebhardt and Ryan can still blaze a trail to the stars that's left of Can or Cluster, right of Sun Ra or Miles. Here they combine strands of numbers already familiar to us like 'Un Chien De'Espace' and 'The Rounder We Go, The Faster We Get' into a monster tour de force with guitarist Snah on keyboards and bassist Bent on guitar and lots of FX-pedals. What is missing is the acoustic segment of the show - the moment where the Geb comes from behind his kit to twang his banjo! More live albums have been promised so we may yet get a toe-tappin' countrified 'The One'!
The release of this live record has given Motorpsycho some much needed breathing space from regular studio recordings, allowing them time to hatch something special for their eighth studio album (discounting 'Maiden Voyage' and various side projects like The Tussler). 'Let Them Eat Cake' released earlier this year by those dependable folks at Stickman has already been hailed as the band's Pet Sounds. And you can tell they've been on creative overdrive. There are some of the most intricate arrangments here yet to grace a Motorpsycho record. It seems odd to be dropping names like Arthurly or Burt Bacharach in the same breath as a band who in their early days were Norway's hardest of hardcore, full of piss and vinegar. Yet much of the new material here basks resplendently in string quartets, soft wood winds and vocal harmonies - pop songs proper. Their hallmark frenzy - at least for now - has subsided. Even the mild post-Duane Allman Bros inspired instrumental 'Whip That Ghost' has a southern gentleman politeness to it, whilst 'Stained Glass' is an exquisite acoustic fragment, a delicate ice sculpture, that recalls the David Crosby era Byrds, even down to the way Saether hits the harmonics. The closing '30/30' builds to a mantra-like climax. If nothing else, Let Them Eat Cake reveals a Motorpsycho ringing in the new - aside from its musical surprises, its the first album for ages not to be sleeved in the art of Kim Hiorthoy (at least he's not credited as such) or benefit from the Death Prod treatment (indeed Mr. Sten only makes one appearance on this record). The blatant anonymity of the packaging only highlights the special quality of its contents.
Cake stands as a testimony to the band's developing artistry and ability - no small wonder they're now getting covered in the NME and Evening Standard (no bad thing) and anually scooping up Norwegian Grammies by the armful! Personally I just can't wait to find out what they're going to get up to next.