Ah, Scunner! A more crazy conundrum of collective consciousness has never darkened the cabariot streets of this humdrum city. For the last few years, frontpuppet Paul Ross has been entertaining, enticing, intriguing and experimenting with our hearts as the music moves us into his worlds of café culture, Czech spirits and dream-laden lads. Along with his right-hand mad-scientist, the inimitable Lunatic Engineer, the song-writing has developed from loose ballads and quirky pop songs to cleverly crafted and well-executed compositions.
This album comes packaged with lovely drawings by Snookie Mono, capturing the dada and projecting the weird and wonderful dreamscapes that fight for existence in Puppet’s head. A little bit of Wikipedia searching reveals that Bast (or Bastet) was a feline goddess of ancient Egyptian worship, which is why we have the charming track ‘Kat Kafe’ with its talk of mummified cats needing fed in the café. It’s a perfect image for this band of off-kilter musicians, spending their time writing their lilting and affectionate tunes whilst hanging around Coptic jars and coffee pots.
The album has a tongue-in-cheek edge throughout, and refreshingly they don’t take themselves too seriously – yet there’s a lot to think about here. Puppet takes on a myriad faces, from the spiffing Twenties’ nuances of ‘Middle Glasses’ with its lines about bourgeoisie boors playing against an agile violin, to the humorous tales of the ‘Messrs Beans & Co’ as they skip around the city eating sweets. But on many tracks there’s also a world-weariness, coming in through darker chords and heavier drums: a driving bass riff here, a subtle keyboard line there – all mixed through the Lunatic’s zany machines to become perfectly processed pop.
A standout track is the brooding ‘Downfall’, a stomping, anxious song about expectation and escape, with the refrain “poor thing, poor thing” repeating as the vocals bounce off one another, slightly unsettling the balance. This is always a firm favourite in their live set, which, if you haven’t already been exposed to, should be the very next thing you do, as you haven’t seen cabariot until you’ve been glittered by the glitterato that is Paul Puppet. His acrobatic antics may be a spectacle, but don’t be fooled: behind the weird and the wonderful lies a lyrical heart, a thoughtful mind and a man with something to say.
Scunner? By name alone: these boys are a delight to behold, and can cheer up any scunnered soul!