Have a quick tootle over to the website of Bolton-born, Cardiff-based, Pagan Wanderer Lu. A rather cheaply-put-together page welcomes you with the message: “A 1.0 site in a 2.0 world.” In many ways, this little phrase sums things up nicely for Andy Regan, the man behind the curious name. While no-one would assume that Regan’s ‘indietronica’ fusion is simply conceived, there is the sense in which his latest album, Fight My Battles For Me, is kept purposefully lo-fi.
If La Roux and Little Boots feel like the profiteers of this current wave of ’80s revisionism, Pagan Wanderer Lu feels like anything but; neither a profiteer or a revisionist. But nor is he conformist. As the rest of the world fusses over 1980s v2.0, Regan, thankfully, still feels very much at home in a place called 1.0.
So what does this 1.0 place sound like? Opening track Anger Management is a convenient two and a half minute introduction to what is a fairly eccentric land of humble beats ‘n’ bleeps and simple synth melodies. These aren’t La Roux bleeps and synths; the kind that take six months of agonising work on computers in studios to construct. No, these are the kind of synths and bleeps that are built in to one of those impossibly cute mini Casio MT-40 keyboards that were around in 1985.
Occasionally, Regan might push the boat out and use a slightly more advanced synthesiser or a guitar or sampler, but he never allows his sound to progress beyond a Nathan Barley soundtrack for a Dick and Dom biopic. In other words, what Regan’s music lacks in sophistication it makes up with a slightly unhinged, puerile charm. The Tree Of Knowledge is a perfect illustration of Regan’s juvenility.
As Regan informs the listener that “The tree of knowledge can fuck (his) apples,” the track’s zany 4/4 beats – that seem to predate house music in their sheer tackiness – abruptly stop to the sound of Regan ejecting and re-inserting a tape cassette, before the track continues (backwards, of course). The fun continues on 2.0///The Bridge Of Sighs. Simple guitar and piano verses borrowed from Badly Drawn Boy manage to somehow descend into a goth-rock chorus that could easily pass as a forgotten interlude from Bohemian Rhapsody.
For the majority of the album, however, Regan’s sound shares most in common with the rustic, unembellished poptronica of The Postal Service. Although Regan possesses very little of Benjamin Gibbard’s sense of romanticism, both do feel like underdogs in their own way. While Gibbard sings of past relationships and lost opportunities, Regan’s wry, satirist commentaries on modern (British, for the main part) living expose him as something of a solitary soul.
The album’s opening lines reveal all anyone needs to know: “I’m always picking fights with people in my head / over things that don’t even happen / situations that grate I just extrapolate / and I want to turn and vent my spleen at them.” Later, Regan explains: “I’m such a misanthrope that I haven’t a hope / that I’ll ever cheer up inside.”
Fight My Battles For Me is at its best when it errs on the side of pop and depends less on its typically manic sense of invention. The easy melodies of Stop traveler! Stop and Read! and Ten Cities Is Not A European Tour are the album’s likeliest singles and the tracks most likely to be revisited. Unfortunately, Regan’s conversational vocal style – due largely to the fact that he has no singing voice – does start to grate as one forages through the album’s 15, often quite hefty, tracks.
Nevertheless, Fight My Battles For Me is an album that rewards a patient listener. Amusing lyrical witticisms and piquant observations will jump out, and intricate tapestries of lo-fi electronica will reinvigorate those who have become a little tired of this generation’s predilection for the not-too-distant past. Proving there’s still life in v1.0, Pagan Wanderer Lu is an interesting and promising talent.