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Spectorbullets (Mayakovsky Produkts)

By • Nov 7th, 2010 • Category: Album review

Something is amiss. Call the cops: “Uh, we located the body of the song, and then a split second later we’re gazing at a chalkmark on the sidewalk where the body used to be. So it goes.” Rum goings-on lurk around each street-hassled corner of Spectorbullets’ eponymous debut album. Take the disquieting vignette Danny’s Day: over Shangri-Las-style fingersnaps, Swedish-born, NYC-resident Gustaf Heden lays some barbed jive on our prying ears: “You, unknown man. Many a time I’ve wanted to slash your face. Although I guess you’re my unknown soulmate through your love for her”.

A spare sonic electicism reigns throughout these lyrical, dislocated gems. Mars On Wednesday materialises like Yello busking outside a Moscow metro station, a bebop street poet spewing forth verses while a rock’n’roll biker trashes the keys. Typically for Spectorbullets, the song revs and raves, then abruptly pulls up at the kerb. Brevity is everywhere. Opening track ‘He Needs It’ features the last recorded performance by the poet, performer and writer Paul Reekie who took his own life in June, and to whose memory the album is dedicated. The song suggests a deserted cabaret briefly graced by Reekie’s preoccupied passing flaneur: “Past the stray fires and land mines we could work it out if I just knew what to do with your love.” Later, this theme is restated by the sweeping ‘She Needs It’ whose guitar, courtesy of Malcolm Ross (Josef K/Orange Juice/Aztec Camera), sounds like it’s emanating from some leaky basement of the Brill Building.

Actually the album was recorded in the Leith home studio of multi-instrumentalist Russell Burn, singer-songwriter Heden’s co-conspirator in Spectorbullets. (This is the debut l.p. release from Mayakovsky Produkts, a label Fire Engines/WIN founder member Burn formed with journalist and ex-Reaction Recordings supremo Innes Reekie). Lead single ‘Mayakovsky It Ain’t (Chaositis)’ also features Ross on guitar, and opens like a hyper- edgy Postcard 45, gathering momentum as Heden enquires “What are you going to do, rock ‘n’ roll?” Riffing on this theme, the rollicking Prince Of The Sun pivots on the line “So take your rock’n’roll stamp collections and get the hell out of my life” and follows that up with a joyous Jacko crotch-grabbing “oooh!”

From the tremolo tenderness of The Buffalos to the classic chordings of hidden track Hackescher Market, the sound of Spectorbullets is fashioned from materials as vintage as a brownstone apartment yet constantly refurbished. Encountering the poppy, hooky, reverb-swamped ‘Goldmine’ is like stumbling into a high-ceilinged room where a party is already in full swing, while ‘Miss Ground Zero’ careens around on rolling newsflash piano. Stairwell percussion reverberates as if someone’s rhythmically sledgehammering a door to force that piano out the apartment.

Detectable through this delectable chaos is a subtext of romantic reflection. ‘Drop’ (lyrics by the album’s cover model, the talented actress and writer Joanna Pickering) is led by a plaintive acoustic guitar wending its way up a cobbled backstreet – “fading silhouettes of memories gone”, while a lightly strummed acoustic also ushers ‘Deadest Room On The Block’ into a Euro-Bacharach arrangement. Here Heden’s voice is at its most gently affecting, before the song halts around the two and a half minute mark to conclude on a cowboy lope.

For all its abrupt detours, disappearing bodies, vulnerable shadows and plaintive contemplations, this picaresque gem of a record displays a dazzling confidence: Heden concludes on the album’s official closing song that “If I was the Queen Of Sweden I would know how to blow a king”. With such gorgeously amiss missives, he and Burn majestically blow the mind.

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