God’s On His Lunchbreak (Please Call Back)
Radiant Future)

Definitions of cultdom often collide with the implicit subtext that only slightly demented, bedroom-consigned lifetime failures can ever truly commune with their genius. Not so the output of “quintessentially English songwriter” Martin Gordon, who writes and records music with an appeal far broader than an audience comprised solely of those chosen last for the football team. There’s nothing anaemic or milksop about his music, which has the ingrained cheek and wistfulness of early 70s Kinks in spades, but also the playfulness of those great Sparks records of the period – some of which, indeed, he once played on. 

Martin’s been round the block a few times. As well as Sparks, there were the Radio Stars, and he’s also shared a stage or recording studio with the Rolling Stones, George Michael and Kylie Minogue. This is his third solo release, following The Baboon In The Basement (2003) and The Joy Of More Hogwash (2004). Both were welcomed by critics, a trend that’s sure to continue with the current instalment, on which Gordon is joined by Swedish singer Pelle Almgren, drummer Chris Townson and guitar player Enrico Antico. It’s a good unit, and the results, going by old jazz writer Whitney Balliet’s metric, do indeed ‘swing’. The hooks are bold and the lyrics routinely amusing. Sonically, the density of the production is not unlike ELO stripped of the pretension and with far greater urgency. 

Gordon doesn’t mind employing a little music hall camp when it suits, notably on the brassy ‘How Am I Doing So Far’. But throughout, he doesn’t attempt to restrain his love of bombast and neat little twists on orthodoxy. And why not? If you’re going to write an album addressing subjects as free-ranging as cricket (as an analogy to the fading of life’s light), Ghanaian babies, self-sanctioned meditations on the pleasures of junk food and the idea of Prince Philip as a Godhead, it’s only fair you allow yourself the odd key change or two. But this isn’t a noodling session, it’s a pop record, and unapologetically so. 

The lyrics veer between sarcasm and the salty delivery of unwelcome home truths, usually with the narrator as the butt of the humour. And while Gordon’s songs are knowing, they are never jaded or cynical. For example, the title-track sees him bemoan the fact that God is not pulling up any trees to help him out. But he does not dwell on the colossal injustice this is on both a personal and universal scale. He just reasons, well, fair enough. He’s probably just gone out for a snack or something. No need to make a fuss about it. 

Other highlights? There’s a truly nutty version of ‘The Captain Of The Pinnafore’ that’s pure pantomime, never mind Gilbert & Sullivan. ‘Here Comes The Family’ sounds like mid-period Stranglers. ‘Too Many People’ is the Paul McCartney number with David Bowie beaming in on backing vocals, while the album closer ‘Fags’ discusses the way in which gay people smoke cigarettes. Surely a much overlooked topic in popular culture. It also has a middle section that sounds like System Of A Down having a throwdown. After all, we can’t leave this pop lark to the kids. They don’t know the half of it. - ALEX OGG