“Go-Kart Mozart are eminently bookable,” we’re told in the liner notes to fourth album Mozart’s Mini-Mart, along with the necessary contact details, “for live dates – births – marriage – deaths – bar mitzvahs – sea cruises – war zones etc.” Lawrence, there, only too happy to seize a promotional opportunity.
His last dispatch – 2012’s On The Hot Dog Streets – coincided, fairly poignantly, with the release of Paul Kelly’s alternately hilarious and gut-wrenching Lawrence of Belgravia. A portrait of an undoubtedly troubled man, who has suffered from addiction and homelessness, Kelly’s film reminds its audience throughout that Lawrence’s singular belief that ever-evasive fame could be but moments away might well be laughable, were it not for all the evidence of his brilliance.
Now, further evidence arrives in the shape of Mozart’s Mini Mart, wrapped in a tartrazine-and-Bird’s-custard-yellow day-glo sleeve, with a Proustian whiff of Panda Pops and Space Raiders, and timed perfectly with the first five releases of A Decade In Music, a well-deserved catalogue overhaul of his first band, the recondite and hugely influential Felt.
Concise, even at 17 tracks, it’s a superb trolley-dash through Lawrence’s obsessions, both of the moment – listed among these in the sleevenotes are the twisted synthpop of SOPHIE, Japanese girl-group Perfume and “Side 1 only” of Dollar’s 1979 debut – and longstanding.
Knickers On The Line By Three Chord Fraud celebrates his beloved junkshop glam, the opening Anagram Of We Sold Apes [Answers on a postcard please – Ed.] is somewhere between Telstar and ’70s TV theme, Crokadile Rokstarz is burbling techno-punk with a smidgeon of OMD’s Enola Gay, while A New World and Big Ship are covers – of Roger Whittaker and Cliff Richard respectively – which make the supposedly heroically uncool sound anything but.
Best of all are the hugely catchy, bouncy pairing of When You’re Depressed and Relative Poverty. They might sound on the surface like classic ‘Novelty Rock’ in the Denim/GKM mould, but on the page both have such an exquisitely painful simplicity and straightforwardness about struggles with mental health (“You never clean/Ignore the mess/You live in fear/That friends will call”) and money (“Take a look in shop doorways/Curled up on the floor/You’ll see men with no future/They were wiped out in the war”) that the black comedy (“I’m living on a tenner a day/A-wop-bop-a-lula, a tenner a day!”) does nothing to detract from their message.