This little gem of an album is a cross between 70s David Bowie, 80s Dury and modern day punk/alt poets such as Beans On Toast or even Frank Turner, with a bit of Sparks thrown in.
We’ve never heard of Lavene before: in an interview with musicmusingsandsuch.com he said: “I’m an Essex boy. I make punk ballads and gutter-pop; been compared to the 70s English mob that Stiff Records put out — Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric and Elvis Costello. High praise indeed.”
He’s a talented guy, though if the album is autobiographical he spent some years off grid, busking and getting into scrapes. Double denim is mentioned more than once. We bet he had dreads.
The music on this album falls into two camps: ones where he speaks more than sings, often jokey; others where he sings properly and are more serious, plus a couple in the middle.
Opener My Stereo is a talker and kicks off the album as a statement of intent: all he needs is music — no politics, news or gossip, just music. “I like to keep my head firmly underground / Buried in the sound,” he puns.
Apples and Pears follows and is a whacky 70s number, rather Bowie (Laughing Gnome era, as opposed to Spiders) or Ian Hunter, theatrical in the verses but with a melodic chorus, paving the way for the fact he can actually sing and write tunes.
Superclean is more straightforward, a proper tune, and put us in mind of Sparks, Lavene adopting a clipped accent to sing about achieving the titular level of hygiene on Top of the Pops, back when “there were only two channels on the television but I’m sure we’ll manage”.
The piano-and-vocals Modern World reinforces the view that Lavene was happiest when Ziggy was on Top of the Pops and Z Cars was required viewing, just before Ian Dury got big (New Boots and Panties came out the year before Z Cars ended.)
“I don’t care for the modern word / digital invitations to a party full of arseholes / Taking photos of each other’s pouty faces,” he intones. He proposes moving out the wilderness to live a simple life, until he realises everyone else “plucking chickens in a vintage Levi shirt” is also a hipster; Surrey is not the wilderness and his neighbouring “farmers” all work in the media. There’s an M&S in the village. This one is more Supertramp, Even In the Quietest Moments era.
Light Of The Moon is presumably his life story, working in a factory gluing things together, which he packs in and then heads off to the south of France, hanging out with hobos and busking before going to Amsterdam. It’s an entertaining tale told well.
Broke is about being broke and it’s one of the standouts, Lavene delivering the lyrics deadpan. “I’m broke. Skint. Strapped” it begins and you know “Brassic” will be the next word before he even opens his mouth.
Methylated Blue is an endearing love song, which appears to centre around drinking a medicine that stains your urine blue; it’s a bit Bowie in the chorus. Closer Someplace New is a serious acoustic song.
Musically, it’s varied, from Bowie to Blur; lyrically, he’s a modern Ian Dury, making downbeat and dryly ironic comments on life. A bit like Dury, he also has a top rate band behind him, no self-made loops and electronics here.
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