Who and what is Paul Vickers? Sometime Dawn Of The Replicant and frontperson with the Leg? Oddball story teller as Mr. Twonky? Surrealist? Musician? Performer? Well, pretty much all of these and more. Nest Of Knickers is an unusual musical curiousity, a series of strange tales linking a collection of, at times, equally strange songs featuring a range of musical collaborators including the aforementioned Replicants.
To be honest I’m still, several listens down the line, pretty unsure what I think of this album. My first impression was that it was a tidying up exercise, collecting a number of recordings together almost randomly but as I listen to it on further occasions it seems to make more sense as an album. Well, in as much as anything here makes sense.
The stories themselves are pretty surreal, Monty Pythonesque in places, warped fairytales in others. They are full of curious characters and animals, ducks that grow periscopes and Jennifer with a mechanised arm are just two of the many subjects here. ‘The Dumpty Dynasty’ takes in egg characters, a failed Victorian freakshow and is just utterly weird but somehow charming. Other tales are full of disturbing imagery and sexual innuendo, particularly a ‘Nest Of Knickers’ and ‘Mary’s Helpless Cat’ with its lines “A bottle of rum to feed a grumpy pussy / Half a spoonful of how’s your father”. My favourite is probably the rambling, bizarre ‘Jennifer’s Robot Arm’ with its creaky, ambient instruments. It’s a tale of a girl “who thought she was the sister of Pinochio” and features a sinister inventor who Vickers happily describes as “one of life’s pleasant bastards”.
The songs themselves are largely excellent. ‘The Boy King’ is pretty classy, coming on like the theme tune to a 70s Eastern European spy theme with its sweet melodies barely disguising a slightly sinister undercurrent. ‘Lon Chaney’ is a disturbing music hall style tune, mixing a falsetto vocal with percussion and banjo while ‘Eggs Benedict’ is a freaky, awkward waltz full of surreal lyrics including my favourite “Stone me, but don’t take that nectarine”.
‘Goat Girl’ is a particular favourite of mine, a dubby-disco track with a distinct Beefheart/Can influence running through its locked groove verses and unhinged choruses and Vickers strident exhortation “To climb the mountain you must become the mountain”. ‘Sheep Woods’ is murky sounding techno, all muted rhythms and a disembodied voice swirling low in the mix.
‘Yabba Yabba’ has a fiery riff in the choruses combined with gentler verses and it’s a really cool song while ‘The Magic Invisible; is eerie in places, upbeat and breezy in others with its lively, almost flamenco guitar driving things on. ‘Fizzy Lemondade’ is elegant but discomforting. Upon first hearing it I scrawled down ‘Mercury Rev on brown acid’ and I’ll stand by that. Its structure is quite simple, banjo/guitar/bass and a disembodied vocal offset by spooky, sweeter accompanying vocals.
I’m probably still no more wiser than when I began listening to this album a few weeks ago. Paul Vickers has a wild, bizarre imagination and is in a world all of his own which is clearly no bad thing. You may not want to live in this world but I think you may enjoy visiting for a while. Just don’t try pulling Loraine Peacock in the Black Heart pub.
Paul Vickers will be performing Twonkey’s Kingdom throughout most of August at The Hive in Edinburgh as part of the Alternative Fringe. For more information check out http://twonkey.blogspot.co.uk