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Reviews

Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes
I Don't Listen To A Word My Friends Say Richard Foster , April 19th, 2018 14:35

We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the kerb

Short in lifespan but, like the mayfly, I Don't Listen To A Word My Friends Say by Jonny Shitbag & The Smokes is a release determined to enjoy every second it has before being snuffed out. It is gloriously messy, bringing burnt offerings to the altars of Klaus Dinger, David Devant and Pulp. Its throwaway nature is endearing, too; it’s the sort of gambit where music is seemingly made as an afterthought, a clever joke, and ends up being something the listener take a great deal of emotional and succour from. Funny, that.

The record has the pop chops, too, a very clever sense of how to catch your attention. There’s an embrace of tinniness in the sound, which works to great effect. Dubba-dubba goes the bass, pat-pat-patter go the drums. For their part, the synths sound like dentist drills let out on a day trip. Everything is topped off with a buzzy guitar sound, smeared over the tracks like jam on a cream cracker. The vocals now and then happily remind me of the paranoid ranting of the Pheromoans, the attitude is that shared by Bongwater circa ‘Celebrity Compass’, the overall sound of the glam banquet served up by David Devant. Oh, how we enjoy this.

Reference spotting while listening to this release - or, rather hearing things that sound like other things, or being reminded of things - is overwhelming at times, like some twitcher on a fag break in the Amazon Basin stumbling across a bunch of Birds of Paradise. Take for example the heart-on-sleeve declamations in ‘Who Did You See A Bee’. The build-up round the line “You never wanna be the one to dance alone / You never wanna be the one who’s going home” is a prize Cocker-ism, a karaokesque parody turned into true pop art in excelsis. It’s magnificent - Poundshop Pulp, and I mean that as a genuine compliment. ‘Bob’ plays similar tricks, and final track ‘I Doesn’t Know’ is a snappy take on the glam-plod that Luke Haines excelled at back in the day. Some funny lines too; lyrics like “Kindly Kill Me / And Kill Me Kindly” are the sort of naff pre-9/11 nonsense that is nevertheless very endearing. Maybe this is a template for what Britpop could’ve sounded like had it stopped obsessing over pictures of Ray Davies.

The keyboard hook in ‘Four Legs’ is beautiful, all-too-fleeting, and gives a sort of mooring to an otherwise runaway, goggle-eyed Ramones fuzz. Elsewhere we get advert music moonlighting as a snippet of a lost Severed Heads track (‘Theme From Night Bulb’). And the piano on ‘Revolting’ (the longest track, clocking in at a nosebleed inducing 3m 12s) makes everything sound like a bedroom take on La Düsseldorf’s ‘Viva’, or ‘Cha Cha 2000’, the vox here also sounding like Klaus Dinger, albeit Klaus Dinger singing while stuck in a hairdresser’s dryer. I Don't Listen To A Word My Friends Say is stuffed with tiny, almost incandescent, half-recognisable moments of pleasure.

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