SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #213 : MOMUS

One of the most written-about musicians ever to emerge from Scotland.  It is fair to say that he is a niche or even an acquired taste.  A full and detailed bio that has been lifted from all music. He’s been a very busy boy and much of his story would make for a fantastic film.

Named after the Greek god of mockery, Momus is the alias of Nick Currie, an erudite and esoteric Scottish-born singer, songwriter, author, and provocateur whose genre-defying music careens from acoustic ballads and electro-pop to easy listening and post-punk and back again. Known for his rich baritone and fascination with themes of psychosexuality and cultural and political crises, Momus emerged in the early ’80s as the leader of the avant-garde band the Happy Family. He joined the Creation label in 1987 and released his second solo LP, The Poison Boyfriend. Momus moved to Cherry Red Records in the mid-’90s and found considerable success in Japan, where he eventually relocated. Since his 1986 debut, the biblical-themed Circus Maximus, he has averaged an album a year, with highlights arriving via 1998’s analog Baroque Little Red Songbook, 2005’s musique concrète-inspired Otto Spooky, and 2016’s post-Brexit-minded Scobberlotchers.

Born in 1960, Currie spent time living in Greece and Canada before returning to Scotland to attend university. In 1981, he dropped out of school to form the Happy Family, a band additionally comprising three prior members of Josef K. After signing to the 4AD label, the group recorded only one LP, 1982’s The Man on Your Street, before disbanding.

After returning to (and graduating from) university, Currie moved to London in 1984. He cut a deal with el Records and released Circus Maximus in 1986, the first offering issued under the Momus name (chosen in honor of a Greek god banished from Mount Olympus for daring to criticize the wisdom of Zeus). A move to Alan McGee’s Creation label preceded the release of 1987’s melancholy The Poison Boyfriend, followed by 1988’s homoerotic Tender Pervert. Even more frankly sexual was the next year’s Don’t Stop the Night, a collection exploring taboo topics including incest and necrophilia. With 1991’s Hippopotamomus — dedicated to the late Serge Gainsbourg — Momus came under attack; the album, dubbed “a record about sex for children,” drew fire from feminists as well as a lawsuit from Michelin U.K., which objected to a lyrical reference to their mascot, the Michelin Man. (The suit was subsequently settled out of court, and all remaining copies of the album were destroyed.)

Undeterred, Momus returned in 1992 with a pair of new records, The Ultraconformist and the ambient-styled Voyager, inspired by the work of Yukio Mishima. After writing the 1993 album Shyness for Japanese performer nOrikO (who adopted her stage name Poison Girlfriend in tribute to Momus) and releasing Timelord (his final work for Creation), Currie made tabloid headlines for his 1994 marriage to 17-year-old Shazna Nessa, the daughter of a Bangladesh-born restauranteur. Currie and Nessa first met when she was just 14; after her parents learned of the relationship, she was sent back to Bangladesh to enter into an arranged marriage, but escaped to return to London to marry Currie, forcing the couple to go underground for fear that Nessa’s family would kidnap her.

Currie, living in exile in Paris, subsequently signed to the Cherry Red label and resurfaced in 1995 with The Philosophy of Momus, an eclectic set veering from reggae to blues to techno that featured “The Sadness of Things,” an indie hit recorded with Ken Morioka of the Japanese pop band Soft Ballet.

Slender Sherbet, a collection of re-recordings of material from the Tender Pervert era, followed later in the year as Momus suddenly found success in Japan writing and producing for pop songstress Kahimi Karie, with whom he notched a string of five consecutive Top Five hits.

20 Vodka Jellies, a collection of demos performed by Momus and intended for Karie, appeared in 1996, and was the first of his records issued in the U.S. In addition to writing and producing material for Nessa’s band Milky and the magazine Blender, Currie rounded out the year by writing, producing, and programming the collection This Must Stop. He issued Ping Pong in 1997, returning a year later with dynamic and inventive The Little Red Songbook. Released in 1999, Stars Forever was arguably Momus’ most controversial and provocative artistic statement yet — mounted to help defray massive legal costs facing Currie’s U.S. label Le Grand Magistery, each of its songs was commissioned for $1,000 apiece by various patrons, from Japanese pop mastermind Cornelius to the staff at New York City publicity firm Girlie Action, and written to the patrons’ specifications. Folktronic followed in early 2001, and two years later, Momus debuted on his own American Patchwork label with Oskar Tennis Champion.

Analog put out the two-disc Forbidden Software Timemachine: Best of the Creation Years, 1987-1993 compilation in 2003, followed by the chanson-forward Otto Spooky and Ocky Milk in 2005 and 2006. In 2008, Currie teamed up with Glaswegian producer Joe Howe for the album JOEMUS, released on the Analog Baroque imprint, with the YouTube-inspired album Hypnoprism arriving in 2010. Thunderclown, a collaboration with John Henriksson, arrived in 2011, followed by the British horror film-inspired Bibliotek in 2012. The year 2013 saw the release of Bambi, as well as the first installment of MOMUSMCCLYMONT, a collaboration with ex-Orange Juice member David McClymont. MOMUSMCCLYMONT II appeared in 2014, followed in 2015 by the triple-LP Turpsycore and Japanese folk-inspired Glyptothek.

Arriving in 2016, Scobberlotchers saw Momus taking on Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, while 2017’s Pillycock was influenced, in part, by Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Trilogy of Life films (Arabian Nights, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales). He returned in 2018 with Pantaloon, a topical cabaret LP that coincided with his move to Berlin. The following year, Momus purchased an accordion in a junk shop and was inspired to compose an album featuring the instrument; titled Akkordion (mixing the German and English spellings), the LP was issued by Creation Records in October 2019.


Despite such a prolific output, I’ve only one Momus album in the collection – Tender Pervert which I picked up on vinyl from a charity shop for next to nothing.  One of its tracks was also included on a Creation compilation, Doing It For The Kids, released in 1988.  It’s fair to say that it’s one of his more accessible offerings – and even then, you’d be hard pushed to ever hear it on radio.

mp3: Momus – A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17 to 24)

JC

CUTE….IN A STUPID ASS WAY

La Chanson de Jacky is one of Jacques Brel’s best known compositions, certainly here in the UK, thanks to the fact it has twice been taken into the singles charts in 1967 and 1991, both as cover versions:-

mp3 : Scott Walker – Jackie
mp3 : Marc Almond – Jacky

Both versions are an absolute hoot, both have much to offer in terms of enjoyment and style and both are well worth a few minutes of your time for a listen. If pushed, I’d say I preferred Marc Almond’s version for the bravado shown by him and the production/arrangement/mixing cohorts of Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley and Youth in throwing absolutely everything at it to turn it into a genuine camp classic which has stood the test of time.

Having said that, it is worth noting how Scott Walker’s version, which of course I’m way too young to recall, was banned by the BBC because of words like ‘queers’, ‘virgins’ and ‘opium’, and yet such was his popularity at the time that it sold enough copies to reach #22 despite next to no airplay.

A wee snippet of trivia for you.

The b-side of Scott’s single was one of his own – the writing credit is given to Scott Engel which was the name he was born with – and is a wonderfully OTT effort complete with the singer bringing in the conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra to give him the sound he was looking for:-

mp3 : Scott Walker – The Plague

What many perhaps hadn’t noticed when Marc took Jacky to #17 is that five years earlier he had included this on his covers EP, A Woman’s Story:-

mp3 : Marc Almond – The Plague

Oh and I also discovered while doing my research that Jacques Brel had also, in 1986, been given the cover treatment by the eccentric and occasionally brilliant Nick Currie, who records as Momus, and in doing so offered his own twisted and very personal and incredibly clever take on things :-

mp3 : Momus – Nicky

Cute…..in a stupid ass way

JC

HELLO NEW READERS…MAYBE NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING?

I’m wondering if some of the words used in today’s posting will attract folk directed here on the basis of one word typed into a search engine.

The LP cover up above is that of a 1988 LP called Tender Pervert. The act who recorded it is Momus, a Scotsman whose real name is Nick Currie.

He calls himself Momus after the Greek god of mockery. As this wiki entry indicates, he’s been around for a while recording hyper-literate, quirky songs that have been known to blend accessible dance-pop with such heavy lyrical themes as paedophilia, necrophilia and adultery. (That’s just about a fullhouse for pervy bingo….maybe one more to come(ahem))

Actually, the stuff isn’t all that bad. I have in my possesion a copy of Tender Pervert and its by no means the worst purchase I’ve ever made. I must actually get round to giving it a proper review and posting in here some day.

Anyway, the reason I bought it was down to the fact is was cheap in a sale, and I already knew and loved one track from it, thanks to it appearing on a Creation Records compilation entitled Doing It For The Kids (this was when Creation Records was very much a vanity project for Alan McGhee and friends, way before it began to make serious money).  As referenced last year on this very blog.

mp3 : Momus – A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy (Parts 17-24)

I’m surprised that the boys and girls from New Order didn’t sue in respect of the tune….

If my stats highlight any unusual paths into TVV over the next few days, I may well draw them to your attention.

JC