Look. I’m a shitty guitar player and I know it. I have two guitars: one acoustic and one electric. I suck at both.
You may wonder why I have two instruments that serve to remind me of my incompetence every time I pick them up. I bought an electric guitar so I could make noise. All you need to create soul-satisfying noise with even the shittiest electric guitar is a distortion pedal, a crummy little amp and a knowledge of power chords (find the root, find the fifth and rock the fuck out). I have an acoustic guitar because a.) it’s easier to use a guitar to figure out the chords to rock songs since most are written on guitar and b.) with an acoustic, I don’t have to plug into an amp to identify various chord voicings (which are clearer on an acoustic guitar anyway).
I know exactly why I suck at guitar, and no, it isn’t because I’m a girl and girls simply must have long, manicured fingernails to complete whatever fashion statement they’re trying to make. I’ve never had long fingernails because they interfere with piano playing—when my fingernails are too long, it sounds like I’ve hired a castanets player to provide accompaniment. Long fingernails also screw up my flute playing because they make me think my fingers are longer than they really are and I wind up failing to press the keys with the necessary accuracy and pressure.
No, I suck at guitar for two reasons. First, I think standard guitar tuning is stupid and confusing. Violins, cellos and mandolins are all tuned to fifths so it’s easy to figure out where you are on the neck. Guitars are tuned to fourths with one interval tuned to a major third (the G-B transition). When I’m trying to identify the notes in a simple lead solo, that major third short-circuits my brain every time. Those little dots on top of the neck don’t help at all.
The second reason probably involves a recessive gene thing: I have a terrible time with guitar picks. I have trouble holding on to a pick when I’m trying to pluck individual strings, as in an arpeggio. It’s really a drag on the acoustic guitar because I usually drop a dozen or so down the soundhole in between string changes; I’ve tried all kinds of picks and they all wind up inside the body of my guitar. Playing on a solid-body Strat negates that problem, but even when the picks aren’t tumbling to the floor I can’t play anything beyond a two-note arpeggio on a power chord to save my life. It’s frustrating because I can play beautiful arpeggios on the piano and flute, but on a guitar all those damned strings get in my way. I suck on the downstroke, I suck on the upstroke. For years I believed I was doomed to remain a chords-only strummer, banished permanently from the realm of guitar heroes.
Recently I sought help for my disability. A friend in the States sent me a guest pass to Master Class, an online video training site with loads of courses on everything from self-help to cooking to music. I immediately honed in on two guitar classes, one with Carlos Santana and the other with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame. I should have known that Carlos would take a New Age approach to the topic, so his advice on how to locate my “feel” and get in touch with my inner spirit didn’t really scratch my particular itch. Tom was infinitely more helpful in terms of providing useful techniques and I’ve been using his ideas from the module on increasing speed to improve my arpeggio picking. I can now pick the legendary intro to “Supersonic” with an accuracy rate of 50% if I play it at half-speed and don’t breathe.
That’s an improvement over my usual accuracy rate of 20% at no speed peppered with lots of “fuck!s.”
A couple of weeks after my last lesson with Tom, I took another look at my review plan for 2021. Nothing really grabbed me, so I started scrolling through my music library and found King of the Blues Guitar. My first reaction was, “Haven’t I already done this one?” but a quick check of my posts told me I’d missed it. “Yay!” I said to no one in particular. “I love that album!” I loved it even more after I began my research and learned more about Albert King’s bizarre approach to the guitar:
- Because he was left-handed, he played right-handed guitars upside-down—but rather than restringing the guitar, he left it as is, with the high E string on top.
- He used a variety of dropped open tunings to allow for more emphatic bends and to get around the limitations of standard tuning: C#-G#-B-E-G#-C#, open E-minor, F major and (when he moved to Stax) a C-B-E-F#-B-E pattern.
- Since he never used the 6th string, I don’t know why he bothered to tune it, but whatever.
- Most importantly, he rarely used a friggin’ pick! Albert King was a thumb-and-fingers kind of guy.
Lights flashing frantically in my little blonde brain, heart beating madly with hope and anticipation while desperately trying to avoid flagellating myself for not having thought of it sooner, I picked up my acoustic guitar, picks-in-the-hole rattling away, and tried to pluck “Supersonic” with my thumb. I nailed it within five minutes. Searching my memory for another arpeggio, I thought of the recently-departed Hilton Valentine and his guitar on “House of the Rising Sun,” and within fifteen minutes I had it down pat.
Albert King is my man!
Historical contradictions abound in blues biographies, and Albert King’s is no exception. The man we know as Albert King was born Albert Nelson in 1923, and could have been born in any one of three places in Mississippi: Indianola, Arcola or Aberdeen (most likely the latter). His father may have abandoned the family when Albert was five; it’s likely that Albert moved with his mother and two of his sisters to the area surrounding Forrest City, Arkansas when he was eight (I have no idea where the other ten siblings wound up). The only thing we know for sure is that Albert spent his youth on plantations picking cotton and manning a bulldozer in an area of the country where white supremacy was a cherished and strongly-protected institution (and in many ways still is).
Whether it was his father’s influence (unlikely, given his early departure) or an encounter with some itinerant picker on the plantation, Albert developed a fascination with the guitar, progressing from a self-made diddley bow to a self-made cigar box guitar to a real acoustic guitar that he purchased for $1.25. Eventually he was good enough to join a band, and spent several years traversing the Delta, picking up tips from guitarists like Elmore James and Robert Nighthawk.
Throughout the ’40s and early ’50s he was known as Albert Nelson, but once we get to 1953 things get a little weird. He changed his name to Albert King and told people he was the half-brother of the more famous B.B. King, offering B.B.’s father’s name (Albert) as “evidence.” Though he had identified (and misspelled) Aberdeen as his birthplace on his Social Security application, he now claimed he was born in Indianola, shrewdly relocating his roots from the Alabama border to the Mississippi Delta. He even named his guitar “Lucy” in line with B.B.’s christening of “Lucille.” These little white lies apparently increased his drawing power, and though B.B. was rather miffed about it at first, he let go of his irritation after meeting Albert. “He wasn’t my brother in blood, but he sure was my brother in blues.”
To achieve that kind of acknowledgment from B.B. King was remarkable, given that nothing came easy for Albert King. One fundamental difficulty involved his physique: Albert King was a big, strong southpaw, somewhere between 6’4″ and 6’7″ and weighing in at about 250 pounds. With those big hands and fingers, he was unlikely to dazzle an audience with nimble, high-speed picking, so he had no choice but to break the rules and come up with other ways to create an authentic blues sound. All those alternate tunings loosened the strings to enable broader string-bending, but Albert still had to face the challenge of left-handedness in a right-handed universe. He solved that problem by teaching himself to pull the strings from on high instead of the standard bending technique of pushing from below, using his strength to bend multiple strings at the same time. As Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns would later observe, “Albert’s guitar was always out of tune with everything else, but he was such a strong man he would just bend the notes back in!”
For the next decade and a bit longer, Albert toiled in relative obscurity, playing the club circuits in the midwest and south and making a few records that were largely ignored. His career remained in hit-or-miss mode for a few more years, but during that period an Arkansas disk jockey by the name of Al Bell became quite the fan of Albert’s inimitable style. The magical threads of the universe finally came together when Bell became a promotions man at Stax Records in Memphis and sweet-talked Albert into signing with the label. It certainly didn’t hurt Albert’s prospects that his new backing musicians were Booker T. & the M.G.’s and the Memphis Horns, imbuing his music with the signature Stax sound, strengthening his connection to R&B and adding touches of funk and soul to his music. Stax released several singles that eventually formed the bulk of the 1967 album Born Under a Bad Sign, and though the album itself did not chart (R&B albums rarely charted during that period), three of the singles did—and Albert King finally started drawing serious attention within the music world at the age of forty-four. Later that year, Albert King found himself playing at Fillmore West; a year later, Cream covered “Born Under a Bad Sign” on Wheels of Fire; a year after that, Albert King was a featured soloist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The original version of King of the Blues Guitar was released in 1969 and consisted of eleven tracks. The version I chose to review is the 1989 reissue that contains all eleven tracks from Born Under a Bad Sign and six more Stax recordings released on 45’s, including two instrumentals that showcase Albert’s distinctive guitar stylings. The Born Under a Bad Sign tracks are marked with an asterisk because I’m an anal bitch and I like to keep things straight.
“Laundromat Blues”*: This clever little pun-filled number from Stax songwriter and session musician Sandy Jones Jr. tells the tale of a babe so horny that she can’t wait to compile a full load of laundry before heading down to the laundromat to receive a full load from the guy she keeps on the side. Exactly where these two lovebirds consummate their relationship is unclear, but I hope that the laundromat is just the rendezvous point and that she doesn’t get banged with her head in a clothes dryer while pretending to look for that missing sock. Unlike most men who pride themselves on their obliviousness, Albert is “gettin’ madder every day” and issues two warnings: “I don’t want you to get so clean, baby/You just might wash your life away” and “The laundry’s gonna trap you, darlin,'” a line that indicates that Sandy did some field research and knew his way around a lint trap.
The interplay between Albert’s voice and guitar is fascinating. First, he never plays while he’s singing, making a clear distinction between vocal lines and guitar fills, giving both more prominence. I’ll let Mike Bloomfield explain the more complex levels of interaction:
. . . And he approached lead playing more vocally than any guitar player I ever heard in my life; he plays exactly like a singer. As a matter of fact, his guitar playing has almost more of a vocal range than his voice does—which is unusual, because if you look at B.B. or Freddie King or Buddy Guy, their singing is almost equal to their guitar playing. They sing real high falsetto notes, then drop down into the mid-register. Albert just sings in one sort of very mellifluous but monotonous register, with a crooner’s vibrato, almost like a lounge singer, but his guitar playing is just as vocal as possible . . . He makes the guitar talk.
That “crooner vibrato” melds beautifully with the smooth sound of the Memphis Horns and would serve Albert well as he expanded the range of his song selection to include R&B and soul. Those deep bends on the solo express both his outrage and a firm resolve that his baby’s got to stop this shit right now—a communication much more effective than his linguistic threats.
“Overall Junction”: This is a nice little warm-up number credited to the man himself that opens with Steve Cropper supplying the classic three-chord blues riff in the key of E as the horns provide a countering rhythmic response. Albert’s contribution alternates between a single-string solo and a multi-string bend attack that sounds so sharp and clean that you’d swear he was using a pick if you didn’t know any better. I imagine that all those years of picking cotton and guitar must have resulted in some of the thickest callouses known to medical science, which may help to explain his rare mingling of power and ease.
“Oh, Pretty Woman”*: A.C. “Moohah” Williams was a high school biology teacher who made the leap to promotions director at WDIA Memphis when they switched from country to R&B in 1949. A. C. would stay with WDIA for over thirty years, serving as a disk jockey and program director while writing a few songs on the side, including his most famous number, “Oh, Pretty Woman.” This ode to the unattainable natural beauty who “Says all your cheap paint and powder ain’t gonna help you none” is a perfect foil for Albert’s understated, shy-guy vocal style, suitable for pleading but never coarse enough to cross the line into actionable threats. His guitar solo is appropriately understated, expressing sweet anguish in the bends but refusing to extend the emotional range to a point-of-no-return. When comparing and contrasting Albert’s approach to Mick Taylor’s version on the Bluesbreakers’ Crusade album, I have to give the edge to Albert for managing those boundaries—Mick comes across too strong, just what you’d expect from a younger man with excess testosterone and insufficient life experience.
“Funk Shun”: The second King-penned instrumental is an example of false advertising, as there isn’t anything funky about this straight-up slow blues number. Though the track features Albert’s longest solo, I don’t think it’s one of his best efforts as he seems to lose touch with the sense of economy that marks his best guitar work. The one spot where he recovers that discipline is in the stop-time passage about two-thirds of the way through the song. For the most part, I focus most of my attention on Donald Dunn’s always marvelous bass and the horn section.
“Crosscut Saw”*: OUCH! While I usually appreciate the double-entendre featured in dirty blues songs, I ain’t gonna let no man with a crosscut saw anywhere near my delicate privates! And I’m sorry, but “I’m a crosscut saw, just drag me ‘cross your log,” sounds like two guys attempting penis-to-penis sex, which I didn’t know was even a thing. Here I ignore the gruesome lyrics and just enjoy Booker T. and the MG’s as they nail the Afro-Cuban rhythms and Albert’s sprightly guitar work. I’d really like a demographic breakdown of this record’s purchasers, as I’d like to prove my hypothesis that the buyers who drove “Crosscut Saw” to #34 on the R&B charts were all men who like their women dry. DOUBLE OUCH!
“Down Don’t Bother Me”*: Albert is on top of his game in yet another of his own compositions that revives the classic there-ain’t-nothin’-I-can-do-to-please-this-woman-woe-is-me tale. Singing at the top of his narrow range with feeling that approaches the bursting point, he wisely leaves the bursting to his guitar fills, which follow the lines in unusually short order. The solo is a knockout call-and-response between Albert and the horn section that matches the intensity of the verses and anticipates the gloriously strong finish. It may be the shortest song in the collection, but as I’ve always told the insecure men I’ve bedded over the years, “It doesn’t matter how long it is—what matters is what you do with what you’ve got.”
“Born Under a Bad Sign”*: Listed as a songwriting collaboration between Stax R&B singer William Bell and Booker T. Jones, we must also give credit to Lightin’ Slim, whose “Bad Luck Blues” featured the key line, “Lord, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” as well as the astrological portents Bell referenced as a starting point for “his” creation. The song’s crossover potential involved replacing the standard 12-bar blues structure with 10 bars in an I-V-IV pattern and a sinuous minor blues scale rhythmic line that gives the song a rock/R&B tinge. I don’t know exactly why I feel this way, but this song cries “Memphis” more than any other song from the city that claims to be The Birthplace of Rock & Roll and Home of the Blues. It feels like a warm summer night on Beale Street with its moderately slow tempo, slick and sexy horns and plenty of sweet, soulful bends from Mr. King. His single-string solo is the epitome of simplicity and in an unintentional tribute to Peter Green, Albert lets out a little scream of appreciation in response to one bent note. The man is feeling it!
I’ll end any suspense right here and now and endorse the Jack Bruce-Clapton version as a more than credible cover, and while I’m into mini-appendixes, allow me to remind you that if you are lucky enough to be able to select the time, place and circumstances of your demise, there’s only one way to go:
You know, wine and women is all I crave
A big-legged woman is gonna carry me to my grave
Hopefully you will have pulled out before having your coronary.
“Personal Manager”*: The B-side to “Born Under a Bad Sign” was co-written with David Porter, one of music’s greatest, most-honored and least-known contributors. In addition to his prolific songwriting in multiple genres, Porter was the very young man who convinced a little record company in Memphis to start recording soul music and brought his buddy Booker T. into the fold as a recording artist for what would soon become Stax Records. At this point in his career, Porter was a songwriter for Stax and had just begun to work with another young songwriter named Isaac Hayes.
Albert King may have been born under a bad sign, but at this point in his career, he had arrived at the gates to musical heaven.
“Personal Manager” is a slow blues number that opens with Albert clipping off a few two-note chords before settling into his more comfortable one-note-at-a-time style. While the interplay between Albert and the horns isn’t as crisp as it was on the A-side, his solo validates the phrase in his Stax biography: “master of the single-string solo.” The lyrics are pretty much the old “Let me careth for thee, O sweet and fragile creature,” and though I’m intrigued to learn more about what he means by the offer “to be your milkman every morning/Your ice cream man when the days are through,” he loses me with a deal-sweetener that simply won’t cut it with a girl who has now experienced three lockdowns (with a fourth on the way):
I’ll take care of all of your business
So you can stay at home
No! No! Anything but that! Go ahead—whip out that crosscut saw but please let me out of the house!
“Kansas City”*: What the hell, everyone else has recorded this song, so why not Albert King? His voice is perfectly suited to the toned-down Wilbert Harrison approach and he’s got a first-rate rhythm band behind him, so why not? One could argue that Albert gives the horns too much room during his solo, but shit, they’re Stax horns and they sound good anywhere and everywhere. Donald Dunn is coming through nice and clear on my right . . . so yeah, I’m good with it.
“The Very Thought of You“*: What the hell? Well, this is certainly out of the . . . blue(s)! This song was first recorded in 1934 by the Ray Noble Orchestra featuring Al Bowlly on vocals, and proved to be something of a precursor to the British Invasion in that it was one of the few British recordings to become a #1 hit in the USA before all those scruffy guys showed up thirty years later. Ricky Nelson came out with a “rock ‘n’ roll” version (probably due to a suggestion from his cornball father), giving new meaning to the word “dreadful.” Little Willie John made some noise with a doo-wop version that’s probably the best of the lot, but this isn’t much of a lot.
Albert was apparently so obsessed with this song that he re-recorded it in 1978 on an album called (ironically) New Orleans Heat. Even the most powerful microwave oven in the universe couldn’t heat this sucker, so I’m not exactly why Albert found the song so appealing . . . though there may be something in Mike Bloomfield’s specific use of the world “crooner” in describing Albert’s vocal style. I will give Albert credit for a sincere and heartfelt performance—but any thoughts he had about becoming the next Billy Eckstine were seriously misplaced.
“The Hunter”*: Y’all know I have an absolute hatred of real guns, but I’m 100% cool with love guns. Etymologically speaking, I wonder which came first—“shoot” as in “shoot your wad” or “shoot” as in “shoot a gun?” Why do we “shoot” photos and golf and drugs and dice? And why is “shoot!” a polite substitute for “shit!?”
Stand by for my new website: altetymologychick.com.
Albert King never quite attained the levels of testosterone expressed in the work of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker or Robert Johnson, but he’s definitely “up” for this one. After a somewhat tentative opening featuring Albert plucking a single string over a duet of Booker T. on percussive piano and Steve Cropper on guitar (nice neck slides there), a snare hit cues those marvelous horns so we can get down to the serious business of displaying male bravado. Albert seems to particularly savor the descending notes that end the key line, “I’ve got you in the sights of my love gun,” pausing just a bit before he sings the words “love gun.” He delivers those two words as if he’s looking his babe straight in the eye with his big one forming a noticeable bulge in his trousers, and damn, is he proud of his reliable member or what? He abandons all pretense of gentlemanly behavior when he almost-but-not-quite growls the line, “And when I pull the trigger, there will be no misses.” That’s my man! Leave it all in my playing field and don’t spill a drop on my sheets! He cools off a bit during his guitar solo but finishes strong with even more bravado. “I’m the big bad hunter baby,” he cries. “You ARE the MAN!” I reply, cleverly manipulating the male ego to inspire a second go-round. “How can I miss when I’ve got dead aim?” “You can’t, baby—now aim that thing right at my sweet spot.” The music fades, leaving the rest of my fantasy to your wicked imaginations.
“I Almost Lost My Mind”*: This Ivory Joe Hunter number is a perfect vehicle for Albert’s voice, with a melody comfortably within his vocal range and a narrative that demands a singer who knows what it’s like to feel the pain of loss. Everybody who’s anybody has covered this song—Nat King Cole, Eddy Arnold, Eddie Cochran, Bing Crosby, Fats Domino, Jerry Butler, Willie Nelson—and it speaks volumes about American culture that the most popular version came from Pat Boone, the paragon of white bread entertainment who absconded with many a song of black origins and made them palatable to the sexless masses. Of the versions I’ve listened to, the one that most resembles Albert’s is Solomon Burke’s, but Solomon doesn’t come close to matching Albert’s ability to express difficult emotions. I love the arrangement, especially the surprising inclusion of Joe Arnold’s flute, reinforcing the fleeting nature of romantic love.
“As the Years Go Passing By”*: Another perfect fit for Albert’s vocal talents, this Peppermint Harris minor blues was first recorded by Chicago blues guitarist Fenton Robinson back in 1959. The original featured a rather energetic piano counterpoint, replaced here by a more subtle but still remarkably nimble performance by Booker T, who gets a chance to show off both his R&B and classical training in support of Albert’s suitably lonesome vocal. Albert does some of his finest guitar work on this song, especially in the beautifully fluid solo, which contrasts nicely with the texture of the punctuating horns. My only complaint here involves track placement—surely the compilers could have separated the two of the saddest and best songs in the collection to reinforce the diversity of the album.
“Cold Feet”: Hmm. This sounds more like an advertisement for Stax artists than a real song, but it made the R&B Top 20 in ’68 as an A-side single, so what the hell do I know? If Peter, Paul & Mary could name-drop the Mamas and the Papas, Donovan and The Beatles and make the charts, I’m certainly not going to begrudge Albert King a little low-effort success.
“You Sure Drive a Hard Bargain”: The B-side of “Cold Feet” is a much stronger effort and clearly the better song. Written by Stax songwriter Bettey Crutcher and producer Allen Jones, the thrills in this song are found in the obvious confidence and heightened spirit of the post-Born Under a Bad Sign Albert King. His guitar playing is crisp, his voice strong and the interaction with the band is both tight and seemingly effortless.
“I Love Lucy”: This is a one-time-only joke with a weak punchline that only works if you don’t know that Lucy is Albert’s guitar.
On second thought, it doesn’t work either way.
“You’re Gonna Need Me”: Once again, the B-side trounces the A-side, making us forget all about Lucy. This King composition is a straightforward blues with some interesting chord variations and a far more intricate horn arrangement than you hear in any of the songs on Born Under a Bad Sign. Albert’s solo is loaded with bite and bend, and though you don’t notice it at first, the connection between the fills and his solo phrases feels more fluid—the man is now in full command of his faculties.
While I was working on this piece I remembered that this is Black History Month in the United States. I had to remember it because the French have yet to recognize that particular observance due to their belief in the doctrine of universalism, or “color-blindness.” The French would rather avoid the topic of race entirely and pretend that everything’s hunky-dory. It’s difficult to square that head-up-the-ass attitude with reality or with the historically documented Parisian embrace of African-American musicians, writers and artists, but the French are often a mystery to everyone except themselves.
So let’s place Albert King in the proper historical context, and we do that by admitting that our awareness of Albert King qualifies as pretty damned close to miraculous. Any black person born in the United States goes to bat with an 0-2 count while a hostile crowd screams for the strikeout. Though certain legal protections have been introduced in an attempt to mitigate those profound disadvantages, dealing with racism remains a daily reality for African-Americans to this day. Albert was also born dirt-poor, bereft of high-powered connections and had little in the way of formal education—traditional or musical. Though his demeanor was anything but threatening, nothing can trigger white fragility as effectively as a big, strapping black dude, so he was unlikely to find much in the way of assistance from the white power structure. Despite those enormous obstacles, once he fixated on the impossible dream of escaping the plantation via a musical career, he refused to let anything get in his way.
The essence of Albert King lies in a rare combination of self-assurance, ingenuity and an almost unfathomable optimism in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers. If you’re going to celebrate anyone during Black History Month, Albert King deserves your serious consideration.
When I posted my review of Sleeper’s album Smart a couple of months ago, several of my American readers commented that they’d never heard of that particular Britpop band.
That’s completely understandable. The Internet was not ubiquitous in 1995 and there was no effort to promote Sleeper in the States. For Americans, Britpop pretty much began and ended with Oasis—Suede, Blur and Pulp were little more than faint blips on American radar. I wouldn’t have been aware of any of those blips back in the ’90s if I hadn’t encountered the one Britpop freak working at Tower Records on Columbus Avenue.
After publishing that review, another reader suggested that I should explore a Britpop album by a band called Denim. “Who the fuck is Denim?” I wondered. The guy at Tower Records hadn’t mentioned them.
I hate not knowing things, so I started to research Denim, unaware that I was about to engage in the modern equivalent of the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Here’s a summary of the backstory I was able to cobble together:
- Denim is one of three musical entities fronted by a guy named Lawrence. The other two are Felt and Go-Kart Mozart. I’d never heard of them either. Felt came before Denim, so I thought I’d check them out and leave Go-Kart Mozart for another day.
- I learned that there have been three bands named Felt. One was a band from Alabama that released a grand total of one album in 1971. Another is a current hip-hop group, so fuck that. Lawrence’s Felt was an indie pop band in the 80s. After releasing ten albums and ten singles, Lawrence claimed that releasing ten albums and ten singles was his goal all along and disbanded the group. Their albums were generally praised by the critics but only modestly popular in the U. K., in large part due to the typical indie shoestring budget. “Alan McGee, who was briefly Lawrence’s label boss when he released a couple of Felt albums on Creation, described him as ‘Britain’s best undiscovered pop star‘”.
- Felt had a shot at a major label contract but “missed their chance when, in 1986, A&R men from 11 record companies came to a gig in west London. Unfortunately, Lawrence took LSD for the first time an hour before their set. He went on stage, looked at the sold-out audience, asked ‘Why are you all staring at me?’ and refused to sing a note until everyone left.”
- While that incident may reasonably lead one to assume that Lawrence was “out of control,” nothing could be further from the truth. In a 2019 interview on Record Collector, he described his approach to band leadership during the Felt era: “Every single thing on those 10 records was my idea. Everything down to the plectrums we used. No sunburst plectrums; that was the big rule. A sunburst plectrum was something from the old school for me. If you were a modern new band you had a white plectrum – that’s the minutiae of it. There were big things, but it went right down to the plectrums, what strap you wore, the clothes – everything was my idea.”
- O-kay . . .
- After Felt bit the dust, Lawrence formed Denim. Though there were the usual and predictable changes in personnel over the years, Felt had a relatively stable lineup and the guys who played on the albums were considered band members. Denim consisted of Lawrence and a pack of “session men and aging glitter-rockers” (including two guys from The Glitter Band). Lawrence intended Denim to be a studio band, believing that “rock music was finished, and DJs could get our records into the charts.” Therefore, it is more accurate to view Denim as Lawrence’s “brainchild” rather than as a stable musical entity.
- Lawrence signed Denim to a dance-oriented subsidiary of London Records (Boys Own Recordings) because he believed that with the resources of a major label behind him he had “the chance to make the album I’d always wanted.” That album, Back in Denim, was released in 1992 to general critical acclaim.
- Boys Own Recordings went bankrupt because Back in Denim cost a whole lot of money to make and didn’t do dick on the charts. The album took an incredible two years to record, and producer John Leckie laid the blame for the delays squarely on Lawrence’s shoulders, at one point banning him from the studio and telling him: “I’ve worked with Phil Spector and John Lennon and Syd Barrett, but I can’t take this anymore. You’re madder than any of them.”
- Denim on Ice was released on another label (duh) in 1996. Like its predecessor, Denim on Ice was both well-received and a commercial failure. The collective yawn from the music-consuming public forced Lawrence to temporarily abandon the concept of “studio-band-only.” “I succumbed to the live thing. I phoned Jarvis [Cocker] and said, ‘Can we play with you?’ They [Pulp] were doing an arena tour and they didn’t charge us but the whole thing cost 22 grand just to take us around the venues. Echo [the label] paid for it but closed the purse strings after that.”
- Despite Denim’s less-than-stellar commercial performance, Lawrence had another shot at big label stardom after EMI showed interest and released a Denim compilation of B-sides and loose ends in early 1997 (Novelty Rock). The lead single from what would have been a third Denim studio album was ready to hit the shelves, but the scheduled release date coincided with the death of Princess Diana, leading EMI to cancel the project and wish Lawrence all the best. Some of the songs from that abandoned album would wind up in the Go-Kart Mozart catalog.
- Lawrence rebounded from that twist of fate by releasing the first Go-Kart Mozart album a few years later, then went into a tailspin, “bedeviled by mental health problems, poverty and, for a while, homelessness.” Interest in his work was somewhat rekindled with the 2011 release of the documentary Lawrence of Belgravia. Unfortunately, I was unable to view the documentary in its entirety as it’s not available for streaming in France and a copy of the limited-release DVD would have set me back about two hundred smackers.
- Lawrence has always been something of a recluse; prior to the documentary, he shared very little about his personal life except his admiration for glam rock and Tom Verlaine of Television (the latter’s influence is much more obvious on Felt). He also expressed a burning desire to be famous enough to get the chance to meet Kate Moss. When Felt’s catalog was re-released in 2018, Lawrence surprisingly agreed to a series of promotional interviews that filled in some of the blanks, but because I have not yet mastered Lawrence-speak, I wound up with more questions than answers.
In addition to the narrative challenges, I ran into all kinds of availability problems with Denim. The reader who suggested Denim recommended their maiden effort, Back in Denim. Well, I guess I could have spent NINETY FUCKING EURO for a Japanese import copy of Back in Denim on Amazon, but alas, it’s “currently unavailable.” Only one of Denim’s albums is available on iTunes . . . but not in France. I had to get an American friend to buy it and send it to me in a series of emails.
In keeping with my ethical stance to never accept gifts or any form of compensation for my critical efforts, I immediately paid back the $1.99 she shelled out on my behalf.
As I navigated the virtual minefield of Lawrence-Denim research, there were several moments when I said to myself, “Fuck this guy. I’ve got more important things to do in life. Where did I put my gardening shears?” What saved Lawrence from altrockchick oblivion was the guilt I would have felt for letting my $1.99 investment go to waste in these difficult economic times.
So I slipped on my headphones and gave Denim on Ice a virtual spin . . . then a funny thing happened.
I started giggling during the first song, continued laughing through the next two, and by song #6 I had achieved a state of near-hysteria.
Denim on Ice is a hoot!
Two adjectives pop up with noticeable frequency in the articles devoted to Lawrence: “eccentric” and “childlike.” Those same adjectives have been used with similar frequency in analyses of Thelonious Monk. What they signify is a person who doesn’t pay much attention to boundaries or the way people “should act” or “should think.” The contradictory aspect of that kind of personality is while they don’t allow “what other people think” to interfere with the creative process, they have an equally strong desire to be recognized for their unique contributions.
Monk believed that “The piano ain’t got no wrong notes,” a sacrilegious perspective in most genres. Eventually the initially hostile reaction to his dissonant, angular lines and his frequently dramatic, percussive approach to piano (one critic called him “the elephant on the keyboard”) turned into admiration, and Monk is now recognized as one of the greatest composers and pianists in the field of jazz.
Lawrence, on the other hand, did very little to extend the musical boundaries of pop-rock and is very unlikely to earn recognition for instrumental or vocal virtuosity. Many of the songs that comprise Denim on Ice are deliberately loaded with tired musical tropes and riffs you’ve heard a hundred times before; I figured out the chords to all eighteen tracks on my first pass through the album. Where Lawrence excels is in his creative yet disciplined approach to compositional arrangement, in lyrics that bypass the censor in the brain that prevents a person from saying things that wouldn’t go over well in polite company and in his superb sense of comic timing that comes through in both the music and the lyrics. Critics have described his use of humor as “satiric,” “mocking” and even “goofy,” but I’d rather forget about the labels and tell you that Lawrence’s music reflects his unique personality, as described in a piece on Huck: “In person, it doesn’t take long to realise what a unique character Lawrence is: obsessive, particular, serious, funny, honest and odd—sometimes all within the space of a minute.”
Though in that piece Lawrence dismissed the suggestion that he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, he did embrace the accusation of being a perfectionist: ““Oh god, I want to be. So much. It’s really hard but I strive to be.” This perfectionist streak is manifested in the air-tight musicianship and carefully-constructed arrangements of Denim on Ice, and combined with his unique takes on life, explains his gift for making the familiar seem fresh and original.
Denim on Ice has been accurately described as “synth-heavy,” an accurate description indeed—no less than seven synth players make appearances on the album. The “glam-rock” label attached to the album is manifested in the mix of synth and guitar. While I have frequently deplored the overuse and misuse of synthesizers in rock music, Lawrence’s perfectionism translates into a highly intentional use of the instrument, using its signature and sometimes cheesy sound to enhance the humor or faux-drama of a particular song.
After a brief introduction from a computer-generated voice announcing, “Hello. We are Denim. We welcome you to Denim on Ice,” a single snare hit introduces the relentless beat and soaring lead guitar of “The Great Pub Rock Revival.” After extensive research, I found out that there was no pub rock revival anywhere on the planet in 1996; Lawrence invented this nonexistent burst of nostalgia to attack nostalgia itself, as in “The next thing you know, they’re going to do a Jetsons remake.” Lawrence’s vivid imagination predicted the eventual outcome of such a revival, focusing particularly on the money to be made by capitalizing on the human yearning for the “good old days.”
There’s an auction going down at Christie’s & they’re selling his headband
They say it’s gonna cost a bomb – don’t know why – the guy’s still alive
And there’s a beermat from the Hope & Anchor in Islington
There’s a corner chewed off – they say he ate it in ’75
Translations for American readers: a beermat is that branded cardboard coaster slipped under your drink at most bars; the Hope & Anchor was the epicenter of the Pub Rock scene in the early ’70s. I started laughing with “the guy’s still alive” and laughed with even more intensity after “they say he ate it in ’75.” I will never understand the human tendency to elevate someone’s status just because they croaked off nor the human fascination with worthless artifacts consecrated through contact with a celebrity. The verse is immediately followed by the catchy chorus, which will undergo three transformations in the song (“headband” becomes “sex & drugs” and “pub rock”):
And there’s a headband over the ocean
A beermat over the sea
Everybody believes what they’re told to
Everybody believes what they read in the NME
The over-the-ocean over-the-sea bits remind me of McCartney’s “Hands across the water/Heads across the sky” nonsense—exaggerated but oddly uplifting imagery devoid of concrete meaning. The more important line is “Everbody believes what they read in the NME,” especially when Lawrence adds his own views on the subject by repeating the line “Everybody but me” three times. Given his backstory, that little line is rich with significance—a bit of self-congratulation for refusing to follow the latest trends in the quest for commercial success combined with a faint hope that his artistic stubbornness will someday break through the barriers and win a larger audience for his efforts.
The music is simple, straightforward, rocking and delivered with palpable energy. The lead guitar of the intro gives way to a synthesizer solo (suitably introduced by Lawrence) that adds a modal flavor to the mix. You can hear the Tom Verlaine/young Lou Reed influence in Lawrence’s vocal, casually mixing melodic and non-melodic phrasing with confidence as he name-checks several pub rock artists. “The Great Pub Rock Revival” is an exciting opening track, full of undeniable spirit and humor.
I’m not sure who made the decision to release “It Fell Off the Back of a Lorry” as the album’s single, as the only thing it has in common with most hit singles is repetition—lots of repetition. The song has no verses—only two bridges, an extended instrumental break (with synth, of course) and a chorus that is repeated six times:
Officer, we’re so very sorry
But it fell off the back of a lorry.
We never learn exactly what fell off the back of the lorry, only that whatever it was wound up in the hands of teenagers who ran afoul of the law for absconding with the fallen contents. While the song makes for a lousy single, the musical variations—using a chorus of children’s voices on the second bridge and the diverse harmonic response lines in the extended fade (in part facilitated by a small chord change from E minor to E major)—form a build that makes the listener relax and embrace the silliness of it all. It may not make for a great single, but I can see this working as a party song after everyone has thoroughly drenched themselves in alcohol.
“Romeo Jones Is in Love Again” features a socially-awkward narrator who has just met a girl and isn’t the most polished conversationalist in the world:
Ah, what’s your name?
Yeah, mine’s that too!
This social awkwardness will appear in other songs on the album; here Lawrence seems to use it to demonstrate the emptiness of introductory small talk. The chorus harmonies are excellent, and the simple G-Eminor pattern allows the pianist to have a rollicking good time delivering classic honky-tonk riffs.
Denim on Ice is not all fun and games; the song “Brumburger” expands Lawrence’s playing field significantly with its stream-of-consciousness, censor-disabled, hard-ass attitude proto-rap.
But right now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the fuck is a Brumburger?” Ah, ’tis a long and winding road:
- Cliff Richard’s last movie was the 1973 release Take Me High. Cliff plays a merchant banker who is excited about a promised promotion to New York, then crushed to learn he’s being diverted to Birmingham in order to save a failing restaurant.
- He gets over his disappointment by “falling in love with the owner and co-founding a glamorous new burger bar.” (IMDB) They name the restaurant and its signature dish “Brumburger” because one nickname for Birmingham is “Brum.”
- The Brumburger is made of a beef burger, blue cheese mayo, lettuce, onion, tomato, bacon jam and pickle.
- The film contains two songs about Brumburgers: “Brumburger Duet” and “Brumburger Finale.”
- The film has been called a “cinematic love song to Birmingham” due to the appearance of several landmarks.
- Lawrence was born in Birmingham.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure that any of that information will help you decode the song. In the first verse, Lawrence is held captive by his gun-wielding babe and her knife-wielding brother who steal his guitar and coat. Next, he goes on a blind date and meets up with disappointment: the girl’s coif resembles something out of the Hair Bear Bunch. In the third verse, he describes how he stole a cat from his mate’s garage, placed the cat on a window sill and watched it fall to its doom courtesy of an old man with a lawnmower. After that verse, we temporarily lose connection with the rap when a chorus of pseudo-soul singers deliver an enthusiastic round of scat with all the energy of The Fifth Dimension. Once we return to jive mode, Lawrence takes a moment to engage in a bit of real-time self-reflection . . .
I think I’ll stay on these chords a little while, babe
I think I kind of like the way that they flow
I don’t think I’ll deviate much from the melody line
I think I kind of like the way that it goes
. . . then follows that line of thought with a stunning confession:
I once killed a baby before it was born, babe
I don’t think it’s murder it’s up to us, isn’t it?
I didn’t think about the consequences just didn’t want a kid, nah
Don’t give me that right on crap I don’t need that shit
The listener hasn’t processed the shock of that jarring juxtaposition before Lawrence moves on to a new topic: dissatisfaction with his current love interest (“You said you don’t go out but you’re out every night, girl/It’s just that you’re not out every night with me”). After a reprise of the first verse and a second appearance by the soul singers, Lawrence finally admits what’s really bugging him about this chick:
I don’t care and I just don’t give a damn
I think a lot but it’s not about you, girl
You suck me off but I can’t come in your mouth
You’re looking good but it’s not good enough for me
You tried hard but the slope’s kinda slippery
I don’t like [Brewster??] or Dostoyevsky
Is he saying he can’t deposit his goo down her throat because she doesn’t like goo or because he disdains her admiration for The Brothers Karamazov? Does the goo have some connection to the blue cheese mayo in the Brumburger? I have to confess I’m rather baffled by it all—and even more so because I actually like the song. If pressed, I’d probably tell you that what I like is the way his mind works, because it works a lot like mine. I’ve always got a million things running through my head and most of the time those things emerge into consciousness in the same disorderly fashion Lawrence displays here. I’ll be concentrating on one thing when a twenty-year-old regret pops into my mind followed by a sexual fantasy followed by worries about finances followed by the nice dinner I had last week followed by that crossword clue about Julius La Rosa followed by something I read in Nice-Matin (usually a car crash) followed by a scrap of music . . . the internal dialogue goes on forever. The only difference between Lawrence and me is he that had the guts to capture it in a song.
The much lighter “The Supermodels” comes next, with its playful guitar-synth fills and delightful series of rhymes (Rita-meet-he(r)-Anita/Pete(r)-Rita-meane(r)-Ryvita-eat-a/Pete(r)-Rita-Anita-two-seate(r)-cheetah-Rita). Lawrence displays his talent for knowing exactly when to use unison singing to its best effect, making it easy to imagine a video featuring a group of hot babes strutting down the runway looking directly into the camera in sync with the line “WE ARE THE SUPERMODELS.” Too bad Lawrence couldn’t swing the video production costs.
Equally delightful is the song that triggered hysterics, “Shut Up Sidney.” Described by Heather Phares of All Music as a “comical spew against techno-pop and other chart abominations,” Lawrence takes on multiple bands and genres including Tangerine Dream’s Quinoa album, Kraftwerk, British groups like Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Westworld, and synth-pop bands like Telex (“Oh god!”) and Trio (“Oh no!”). Each set of rapid-fire digs is followed by the unison chorus, “SHUT UP SIDNEY, that’s not rock ‘n’ roll!” I think the reason I find the song so funny has to do with Lawrence’s unbridled expression of genuine disgust for musicians who (in his opinion) qualify as frauds—it’s the same way I feel when I review albums by the pompous and the pretenders. And yeah, I get that he’s probably letting off steam about his own lack of chart success, but I think he is genuinely offended by what he considers half-assed music, and so am I.
“Mrs. Mills” is a product of one of Lawrence’s not infrequent journeys to New York, his go-to place when he was in need of a reboot. This gentle, melodic pop song opens with a description of his own struggles in the field of social interaction, offering a circular defense for behavior that most people would dismiss as weird:
When I put the door back on the stable
Then I was able to come out again
I believe that no one is unstable
We’re just lacking in confidence
Because we ain’t got no friends
The rest of the song describes several women he met in the Village, all of whom qualify as a “little bit off” when held to the standard of acceptable social behavior. Rather than dismissing them as hopeless losers, Lawrence offers them understanding and assistance:
Kathy take a step out of your front door
Then take a few more
You’ll see it’s alright
I’ll meet you by the station in the morning
You said you don’t like the daylight?
Okay, we’ll make it the night
His preference for female companionship is emphasized in the chorus, sweetened by vocal harmony:
And you can send all your letters
In care of my lawyer in New York
And you can keep all my letters
Except the ones that were sent to me by girls
Compared to the other notable Britpop outsider—the misanthropic Luke Haines of The Auteurs—Lawrence is all cuddles and hugs. This is even more apparent in “Best Song in the World,” a love song that “never said I love you,” avoiding the usual clichés in favor of accepting the other for what s/he is. No, it’s not the best song in the world, but I love that corny little organ riff.
We now shift back to the cinematic with “Synthesisers in the Rain” (British spelling), a masterful takedown of the manufactured drama you’ll find in bad progressive rock and in much of the music from the synth-loaded ’80s. It’s best to view the song as a mini-operetta in four scenes:
Scene One: A ghostly sound rises and falls from the synth, interrupted by the sound of a leaky tire. The ghosts give it another go, but die a horrible death when the tire goes completely flat. The noise is supplanted by the classic drone combination of major chord/major seventh chord (C/Fmaj7), its low volume and slow tempo screaming, “Okay, we’re going to make serious music now, so prepare to be dazzled by our faux sophistication!” Enter Lawrence. Aw, he looks and sounds sad. His girl failed to show up at the disco and when went he went to fetch her his mother blew him off with the tried-and-true she’s-doing-her-hair-luv diversion. Stunned, Lawrence manages to deliver a round of the stirring chorus:
Synthesisers in the rain,
Synthesisers in the rain,
Sythnesisers in the rain,
Synthesisers in the rain.
Scene Two: The underlying beat gains prominence over the drone as Lawrence mopes off to a nearby corner and lights a fag under a street lamp, from which vantage point he witnesses his dreams of a romantic evening being smashed to smithereens:
A car pulled up, and you got in and you both drove off and that’s a drag
Synthesisers in the rain,
Synthesisers in the rain,
Sythnesisers in the rain,
Synthesisers in the rain.
Scene Three: The entire male cast from H. M. S. Pinafore appears out of nowhere with a spirited round of la-la-las that begins in the key of E minor but eventually resolves to the G major chord that opens the chorus.
Scene Four: The music returns to a pompous calm, where Lawrence is waiting to deliver yet another rendition of the chorus. But wait! I hear a moment of dissonance! The voice harmonizing with Lawrence seems to be on the edge of tears! Calm returns momentarily in the form of semi-stop time where the voices remind us of those . . . “synthesizers . . . synthesizers . . . in the rain.” AND BOOM! IT’S GRAND FINALE TIME! The synthetic sounds rise, the percussion intensifies, Lawrence repeats “synthesizers in the rain” ad infinitum while his harmonic partner does a pretty good imitation of Clare Torry on Dark Side of the Moon, howling soulfully to the yawning heavens in a game attempt to temper the pretentiousness of it all with a touch of soul cred. Fade. Fini!
I guess Lawrence decided to have the tenors and baritones from “Synthesisers in the Rain” stick around for a while, because here they are again, slipping easily into working-class accents on the chorus that opens the “Job Centre.” Though the unison vocals brim with confidence about their job prospects—reinforced by the muscular rock background—Lawrence counters their enthusiasm with a cold shot of reality:
On the TV politicians piss me off with what they say
It doesn’t matter who’s in power they won’t help us anyway
Take a look around these tower blocks what’s happening these days
Build a fence around me and put me out to graze
That verse makes for a nice segue into “Council Houses,” where Lawrence swears “Ooh, I won’t pay the rent/On this, on this concrete slum imprisonment.” The song is also noted for his defense of modernist architects Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. Lawrence believed they had the right idea but the city planners botched the implementation with their devotion to classism:
The lazy sods didn’t even try
Why put a pig in a palace?
Put it in a sty
Lawrence doesn’t mess with the socio-political too often on Denim on Ice, but when he does, he cuts right to the heart of the matter.
I firmly believe there are no perfect albums, and the odds of getting close to perfection fall exponentially with each track you add to the mix. Loaded with eighteen tracks that add up to fifty-seven minutes of music, Denim on Ice is bound to have some stinkers, and the first is “Glue & Smack,” a close-enough-to-minor-blues number to tell me that Lawrence doesn’t have the voice for the blues. The song has some interesting (if bizarre) imagery but never really comes together. And though I liked “Jane Suck Died in ’77” the first time around because of its early punk feel, this tribute to the legendary punk journalist (who did not die in 1977) gets a little too cute for my tastes—I just don’t think “punk” and “cute” go together.
But I’m always up for oral sex . . . uh, wait a minute . . . hold that thought . . . what?
Vicky’s alright, she’s a little rough
When she comes up from underneath
And when she goes down, I can feel her crown
I told her, “You’re wearing grandad’s false teeth.”
You’re wearing grandad’s false teeth (yes you are, now)
You’re wearing grandad’s false teeth
I better watch out, she is trying it on
She put a pinpick in my sheath
Instead I go down with my dental dam
She told me, “You’re wearing grandad’s false teeth.”
Once I get past my own pain memories, I spend most of my time laughing my ass off to “Grandad’s False Teeth” while thoroughly enjoying the slick Allman Brothers imitation on slide guitar. Still, I find two aspects of the song disconcerting. The first is the mention of a dental dam, as one of my primary motivations for finding a permanent female partner was to never have to use a dental dam again—the taste of polyurethane isn’t my idea of a good time. The second jarring moment involves the introduction of a children’s chorus in a song about oral sex. Now, the lines handed to the kids had nothing to do with this form of adult pleasure (“Grandad, where’s your false teeth?”) and I’m sure the kids were safe with Lawrence, but just like “punk” and “cute” don’t go together, “sex” and “the sounds of little children” are guaranteed moment-killers.
“Silly Rabbit” opens with the faux-string flourish common to many soul and disco numbers, but quickly turns into a standard pop song with lyrics suitable for kids who love Trix. I do think the line “I want to hear my songs on your radio” has been misinterpreted as Lawrence whining about failing to make the charts. When he tells his girl he wants to hear his song on her radio, it’s like Colin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney singing, “I wanna be your Joey Ramone/Pictures of me on your bedroom door.” Having dismissed the love you/want you stuff with his labored pronunciation of “obviously,” he’s hoping for less cliché and more authenticity—and being a musician, he’s going to express his passions through musical metaphors.
And right on cue, Lawrence delivers the most beautiful song on the album, one that further explores his concept of intimacy. One of my most fervent beliefs is that intimate relationships should be consciously and actively chosen every single day and completely free of any obligation. In “Don’t Bite Too Much Out of the Apple,” Lawrence validates that belief from the perspective of real-life consequences: if you truly love another person, you must also defend their freedom to make choices, even if those choices lead to the end of the relationship:
In my younger days
I was in search of big romance
But I never got the girl
You see I didn’t even stand a chance
For it wasn’t meant to be
My spirit dictates to me
That once I’ve held a girl in my arms
Then I must set her free
He then sings about one of the hopes behind his decision to head for New York: “A sweet girl to breathe all the life back into me.” Back in London, he remembers a girl who seems to have met those qualifications, but now he finds himself on the other end of the bargain, and yeah—it hurts:
Now I got to thinking
Of a girl I left behind
Ah she’s beautiful, maybe destiny’s
Caught my spirit way off its guard
She writes letters to me
They’re as sweet as can be
They say ‘Don’t bite too much out of the apple
And forget about me’
I love how he just leaves it right there—the endless paradox that loving someone can also mean letting go. Lawrence’s arrangement is equally beautiful, especially the lovely interplay between piano and acoustic guitar. I wish he’d left things right there instead of inserting “Myriad of Hoops” in the follow-up slot. The song deals with the bullshit that accompanies most relationships, leaving the listener with a sour taste in the soul.
The closing track, “Denim on Ice” features a farewell from Lawrence set to rather somber music that I will reproduce in its entirety:
So, we’ve come to the end
There’s not much left to say now
Select recap: weigh up the merchandise
You’ve heard songs about pop rock, oral sex and junkies
And that’s Denim . . . Denim on Ice
It’s been a long, slow trough
Thank God it’s over
I nearly went off my rocker once or twice
I dedicate these songs to all the guys that helped me
Make Denim . . . Denim on Ice
That’s Denim. . . Denim on Ice
On ice . . . on ice . . . on ice
Having just “met” Lawrence for the first time, I’m reluctant to make any long-term commitment or attempt to make a generalized statement of his artistic value. All I know at the moment is that Denim on Ice is a superb and refreshing piece of work from one of the most unique personalities in the field of music. I look forward to exploring more of his work, and while I can’t guarantee that I will love every step of that journey, I’m pretty damned sure that the trip will be very, very interesting.