There has been much angst-filled hang wringing recently about the “death of songwriting”, given the explosion in popularity of Reality TV pop stars. Indeed, when the top three singles at Christmas are all filled by spin-off bands from Popstars: The Rivals, it’s hard not to feel worried. Nevertheless, last year artistes as diverse as Badly Drawn Boy and The Streets proved, in very different ways, that it was possible to make commercially viable music that’s also funny, sad, moving and actually says something. Now we can add Jonny Green of Satellite to that list.
Green is the multi-talented man behind Satellite – as well as writing, singing and playing all the instruments here, he also produced the record, and Fear Of Gravity is an astonishingly self-assured debut. Opening track and recent single Lighten Up The Load gives a pretty good idea of what to expect – imagine The Eels without songs about cancer and death, mixed with Beck‘s maverick streak together with a pop sensibility that Robbie Williams would shed blood for, and you’re getting close.
While the vast majority of the choruses on offer here would see off a million Cheeky Girls, Green’s real talent lies in constructing some truly memorable lyrics. Can You Hear The Sound? is a love letter written from a prison cell, which manages to get away with incorporating the line “if it wasn’t for those pesky kids…”. Similarly, the best track on the record, Bubbles, tells of a lovesick Green’s wish to be a fish as “they’ve got tiny little brains and beautiful bodies/does it sound familiar, ’cause it’s just like you”. Despite these couplets that raise a smile, Fear of Gravity isn’t a comedy record – in fact Bubbles could be the saddest, most beautiful song you’ll hear all year.
The production here is also superb, a mid-album instrumental such as October would probably end up as filler in anybody else’s hands, yet here it’s cut-up samples sound fresh and different. This production is a highlight throughout the record, lending an exuberant edge to tracks like Baby It’s You and adding vinyl bumps and crackles to the poignant God Knows.
It’s early days, but Fear Of Gravity is a record that deserves to be in many a Best of 2003 come the end of the year. Look out for Jonny Green, as he’s sure to be a name to watch in the next few months. This is certainly one Satellite that’s about to blast into orbit.