Released -25th April 2014
There is a very good reason to get hold of this latest release from German Shepherd – mainly because it is remarkably good – that’s not to say that the other releases on the label aren’t excellent – just that this one is pretty impressive as well.
One should also note the other work that Mr Roberts produces, and has produced in the past. Most of his current output can be accessed from http://www.modalroberts.net, and from there you can also get a good feel for the breadth of the artists talent, his inventiveness, his playfulness, and other aspects of his oeuvre. Those with long enough memories, or a predilection for rock family trees will recognise, at least, his surname from the latter days of Marc Riley’s Creepers – I make this point in respect of at least one track on the EP.
Notwithstanding the above fertile and rich work we have here a “shop window” as it were into the wonderful world of Modal Roberts. Four fascinating insights into his extensive musical catalogue. My good friend Stephen Doyle (Salford City Radio) has been featuring Modal’s alt-karaoke of late, which has been very entertaining, for this release however the back room gurus at German Shepherd felt it would be good to focus on his own material.
You might well be shocked by the opening lines of first track “Full Sore” – typical seaside post card humour from the 70s however soon melts away to reveal Modal’s theorising on the potential that the characters in a certain comedy series might have alternate sexual preferences. A bass line worthy of Bootsy Collins from Toby Deans, and scattergun sharp sharded guitar licks and chords from Dooj Wilkinson create an exciting mix between rock elements and funk with insistent house rhythms holding the anchor. It’s what the youngsters might call “groovy”.
I mentioned Marc Riley’s Creepers and indeed Mr Roberts was a member of said band during it’s latter years and those of you know the output of that band will be aware of the last album they made – Rock ‘N’ Roll Liquorice Flavour – which included a track called Derbyshire. An updated version of the track on the EP re-realises it as a techno dance work-out with a hypnotic toe-tapping rhythmic base underpinning a laconic vocal and some surreal lyrical adventures. Roberts attention to detail with the elements of the track is excellent – chittering percussive noises, squawling synth sounds, tricksy little vocal asides, and additional layers of analogue sounds make this a very fine piece of work indeed.
Singing a song about John Peel’s possible real feelings for “Teenage Kicks” in an off kilter mutant blues style provides for some variety in the overall mix of the EP. Modal plays with memory and history to suggest various options for how the legendary DJ might have considered his audience. A fascinating perspective and delivered with some panache.
And to conclude 7 minutes of foot pumping floor filling house music – again great bass from Deans – and a laminal series of breakdowns as Modal raps/sings about the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on the lifestyle of farm dwellers. A joyous little ditty with some great lyrical twists, a few musical jokes thrown in, and altogether a clear indication it is possible to take dance music and have a great deal of fun with it.
Coherent, unusual, naturalistic, topical and downright good fun throughout – I strongly recommend this to you.
The EP is released at £4 (or pay more if you want) on German Shepherd on 25th April 2014.