King of Woolworths is Jon Brooks, self confessed movie mad Mancurian person, who first came to our attention when he played the DJ set on the Mary Ann Hobbs Radio 1 show. Brooks would then flog his wares on the internet, as an unsigned artiste. He’s signed now though and L’illustration Musicale is his second album on Mantra Records.
The album starts like some terrible sixties spy movie, all clinky triangle and slinky xylophone, and as it branches into a Tarantino movie score, very Steelers Wheel, it hits a groove, and it works. It lushes you along, bass heavy and alluring.
Montparnasse, the second track recalls images from A Clockwork Orange, spooky and sparse. It morphs into a harp led catch that plays on and on, moving into a nice minor key before repeating.Brooks cites influences such as Serge Gainsbourg amongst others and you can hear it loud and clear in this track. Just think Left Bank Paris, the Seine, Gitanes and you’re there with him.
Saint Etienne are also acknowledged, and Sell Me Back My Soul reeks of them, even down to the too breathy female vocal, which is a shame, because the hook lines are good and as a piece of pop plastic, it stands up.
Hub100 flummoxes a bit. On the once hand the synth hooks are pleasantly meandering affairs that kind of drift over and above. Nice if you’re dozing off. On the other hand, this isn’t an album to fall asleep to, without a doubt it’s not meant to be a sleepy ambient collection. So, if you can’t dance to it, or shake your head, or nod off to it, what’s left? Just put in on in the background and not really need to listen to it?
Brooks obviously likes the wispy female voice, because another, different woman sings on Evelsong, but the pop isn’t as fizzy as on the previous vocal track and looses me half way though.
The album hits a high note with 123 Brillos Beat, a funky sub disco bass driven dish, and A12 is a piece of simple beauty, 5 notes played on the piano back and forth. It’s not demanding, but it eases along and is quietly pretty.
This album is a grower. On first listening you think, what is the point? This must have taken all of ten minutes to write, record and mix. And then the simple hooks seep in and you feel the groove, as languid and lazy as it is and that’s oft the case with deceptively simple music. Sibelius its not, but then why should it be?
Brooks is up front with his inspirations. He likes films and film music and indeed, this album is an album of background music that could be a film score, and it works in this medium and plays well as a dinner party backdrop. But shouldn’t music be more challenging? Perhaps not, perhaps background is fine. If that’s the case, this album is very fine indeed.