I've never paid much attention to Gene, weak-tea indie Britpop and all that, but I decided to try a song called 'Drop Anchor' from lead singer Martin Rossiter's new solo album. What can I say? I'm such a sucker for maritime imagery that the song's title even took me past the album's title. I swear that if, for the sake of parody, somebody asked me to imagine the ex-singer from Gene had written a solo album, The Defenestration Of St Martin is exactly the name I'd give it. Exactly.
Anyway, 'Drop Anchor' prompted me to commit to the whole record. It turns out that song has one of the strongest lyrics as well as one of the strongest melodies on the album, but here's the surprise: all of the songs are strong. We hear in the opener, 'Three Points On A Compass', a son face an unhappy mother, an unhappy childhood and the cause of it all, the father. I believe it's autobiographical:
"The only thing I got from you was this name, this stupid name."
The lyrical content of 'No One Left To Blame' takes a direction that's about as far from indie pap as you can go ("there's no one left to blame/so I'll choose the person nearest" and "leave a radio by the bath/but I am far too spineless"). The album is mostly just piano and voice, and the writing insinuates, in spartan sympathy, rather than insists. 'Sing It Loud' is more than a straightforward murdering-a-woman ditty. 'Where There Are Pixels' meanwhile shows us, with a lightness almost as pathetic as the glow of a computer screen, how foolish we are to fall for the internet's empty promises of comfort, warmth, reinvention.
You might well pray, after 'Where There Are Pixels', that Martin Rossiter's next meditation on lifelong pain is at least delivered with Python-esque abandon. Well, you're in luck because that's precisely what you get with 'I Must Be Jesus', which comes complete with male choir. 'My Heart's Designed For Pumping Blood' explores an inability to love with similar playfulness before, with the last songs, the album begins again to push you under in earnest. The desperate longing of 'Drop Anchor', the lovers' pathetic, ritualistic dalliance with suicide in 'Darling Sorrow', and the real end of 'Let The Waves Carry You'. If Morrissey tried this stuff, it'd be only high camp. It's as little and as much as the every day here. Merry bloody Christmas. I double dare you over the festive period to insist your loved ones listen to this tinkling-ivory set rather than Nat King Cole.