Amidst the seemingly endless procession of earnest irony-free Toni & Guy coiffured NME Cool List types, the genuine maverick, the acerbic outsider, the self depreciating japester seems to be a tragically dying breed in the indie world.
Perhaps it’s because virtually all people in bands were/are university students, leading to a rather dull, humour-free, homogenous type with a narrow life perspective and a bucketload of trivially predictable ‘issues’. Perhaps John Peel’s absence is also contributory. Peel always had an eye for the real characters. Latterly, he had plenty of time for Grandmaster Gareth – the wonderfully named lead singer of Misty’s Big Adventure.
Funny Times is Gareth’s band’s third album. If this is news to you, then I suggest you take steps to catch up. 2004’s The Solar Hi-Fi System and my personal 2005 album of the year The Black Hole are beyond essential for lovers of joyous, funny and utterly human indie-pop.
Most prominent in eight-piece Misty’s music is their sheer love in making it. The contrast between this playful pop-psych-ska melee and the often amusing, always engaging deadpan delivery of Gareth (imagine a Brummie Julian Cope with tongue firmly in cheek) is their calling card.
On first inspection, Funny Times represents a shift in emphasis from the gleeful experimentation of their former work towards a more focussed, direct pop ethic, with a more romantic, wistful lyrical persuasion. This is an understandable direction to take, similar to that successfully followed by equally essential Gorkys Zygotic Mynci. Crucially, like Gorkys, Gareth and company seem equally at home with more mature sensibilities (mature being relative of course: Coldplay this ain’t).
Nothing highlights the new direction better than the truly brilliant How Did You Manage To Get Inside My Head? which sees a tormented Gareth unable to shake off the memory of a former co-habiting lover. His journey from vague annoyance via deep frustration to passionate longing is reflected beautifully by the band – like the best score to a musical you’ve ever heard.
The female backing vocalists also underpin much of the good work here, often as funny as the main man himself: witness the great section from Sitting On Your Doorstep: “Though we said come round today we never said we’d be in. While you’re out we’re in your house going through all your things”. Meanwhile Gareth sits in the rain on their doorstep, endearingly unlucky in love yet again, giving David Gedge a run for his money.
Such effortless charm would no doubt appeal greatly to Mr Peel were he still behind the decks, which is all the more reason to lend your support to such true indie wayward souls, plowing their own furrow rather than following the careerist path. We need them, and they need us.