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Mark Wynn
The Singles JR Moores , March 23rd, 2016 07:58

He used to be known as one of the best finger-picking guitarists in the whole of York. Not New York, with its Rockefeller Center and Ghostbusters fire station. The City of York, England, with its uniformly short buildings and weekly Rick Witter 'Disco Down' DJ sets. Still, it's an accolade that doesn't come lightly and back in the day Mark Wynn found moderate success playing with the band Hijak Oscar, who supported the likes of Alabama 3 and appeared on Channel 4's Mobile Act Unsigned.

At some point, Wynn is believed to have experienced some kind of epiphany, although certain folk describe it more in terms of a breakdown. Apparently deciding that there was a dubious, unavoidable insincerity to English white boys playing trad-blues "baby, baby" swamp-rock stuff, Wynn reinvented himself as a "word noise blah" artist: a deliberately ramshackle songwriter and performance artist who drawls outsider poetry in a Yorkshire accent over crude guitar riffs, evoking the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Mark E. Smith, Wreckless Eric and maybe even Alex Turner when he still had to travel by public transport, observing real things. The self-sabotaging behaviour of eccentrics like Frank Sidebottom and Daniel Johnston also come to mind. As well as showcasing his own compositions, Wynn's live sets would see him play a mainstream artist's CD over the PA while screaming the words "THIS IS A COVER" over the top. Sometimes he'd get naked and roll on the floor. When he caught the attention of the NME's beady eyes, being listed in their "Ones To Watch In 2015", Wynn reacted by promptly announcing his retirement from music and moving to Scotland. (He has since been coaxed into a handful of gigs as well as this compilation of "singles" which aren't actually singles but tracks lifted from various self-releases).

Wynn probably doesn't appreciate any of the above comparisons any more than Sleaford Mods enjoy being likened incessantly to The Fall, although incidentally one of Wynn's choruses does go, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, rip off The Fall, rip off The Fall" and Sleaford Mods are loyal champions of Wynn. They've had him support them a bunch of times and Jason Williamson has said this of Wynn: "The same grey fucking cloud that followed me now hangs above him. He's got it!" Wynn, however, channels his disaffected anger in a more sardonically baffled manner than the more outright, furious ire of Williamson.

Having said that, the opening track of The Singles is quite ranty and sweary as the singer barks popular phrases like "fucking battered", "gizza fag", "what you on about?" and "I'm not even that drunk" to a rickety lo-fi garage backing (as opposed to Sleafordian electro loops). He also sounds pretty frenzied when screaming his way through the outro to its eleventh track, even if the song in question is about Battenberg cake and the words he screams are "Mull of Kintyre".

Before you've even placed the needle on this LP, in fact, you can tell that Wynn's a genius from his song titles alone. 'I Just Don't Understand Nick Cave'. 'I Was A Lot More Prolific When I Was Living In Greece'. 'Knee Socks'. 'She Fancies Me That One In Age Concern'. I could go on. Instead, here are a minimal number of examples of the many lyrical treats that crop up within his everyday anti-folk narratives:

"'I've just pressed a vinyl,' he says to me. I hope you've got the loft space."

"Don't say you're from Leeds. Unless, of course, you are. From Leeds."

"Real sausages made by a real butcher? Well who the fuck else would make them?"

Wynn is like the classically-trained modern artist who chooses to paint deliberately "badly" in an attempt to get closer to "the truth". Even if 'Hula Hoop Song' has quite a catchy tune and 'The Girl Who Looked Like Bobby Gillespie' goes some way to resembling a ballad, Wynn's rough, bedsit sound, provocative onstage persona and mistrust of the limelight is bound to deny him popularity, or perhaps even a moderate cult following. But who tells us more about what it's like to live in England in 2016? Is it The 1975 with their No. 1 album, O2 Academy tours and songs about celebrity parties that sound even feebler than INXS? Or is it Wynn, who neglects to sweep up the fag butts in his yard, has forgotten to pick up any milk ("bollocks!), condemns those who demand to have their tea made in a certain specific way ("well make it yourself then!") and hangs around the town observing cryptic crossword players, swaggering men and a person named John getting thrown out of a shoe shop? "Eat a corned beef sandwich in a bungalow with your nan in New Earswick, who has a bad leg but a good head," he talk-sings at one point. Even if you haven't been to New Earswick, don't have a nan and never touch corned beef, there is surely more to identify with in that single line than in the entire oeuvre of every insipid artist on the BBC's Sound Of 2016 longlist, Rat Boy included. And if that induces another fit of early retirement, I can only apologise.