Thursday, 7 February 2008

Imagine Her, Imagine Them


Fox were great. This is a fact. Some facts aren't trumpeted enough. My incessant trumpeting of Fox's greatness resulted in a lovely email from an American TV Cream reader, thanking me for introducing him to the band, which whom he was now obsessed. I was, needless to say, chuffed to bits by this. So, in the hope of drumming up a few more converts, here are more reasons why Fox were, as the man said, great.

(Sorry there's nothing much to accompany them, but the band's YouTube presence is predictably meagre. there are a couple of songs but They won't let me embed them here, for some sinister reason.)

1) S-S-S-Single Bed. The motherlode of course, and packed to the gunwales with gorgeous oddness. That clumsy club-footed wah-wah intro, for instance, sets alarm bells ringing among the less imaginative punter from the off. Then in comes the 'Lilli von Schtupp at 78RPM' vocal and that clumsy 'ner-nernk!' riff, the rhythm guitar equivalent of an on-the-pull Mod trying to lean nonchalantly on the edge of a National Milk Bar counter and sliding off. It's All Wrong and All Right at the same time. And then there are your Talkbox shenanigans in the middle eight of course. Best bit (and which, admittedly, you won't be hearing on that YouTube clip) is the way the menacing bass synth hum swoops in suddenly at the end of the chorus like a Close Encounters spaceship. Brrr! Oh, and Kenny Young's goofy cod-Texan backing vocals. Brrr!

2) Only You Can. On the album version at least, this starts very oddly indeed, with a bit of pan-pipe fuelled wooziness that seems to have fallen off a Martini advert. Then, before you can get your bearings, in comes the completely different actual tune, in the middle of a line. Out-avant-garde that, Radiohead! Then you have to contend with Noosha's nutty suction noises and bonkers lyrics about making her heart 'twirl and gyrate just like a Giro delight'. (Presumably some kind of instant dessert for the unemployed.) And for the middle eight, sir, may I recommend ten seconds of extreme stereo flanging on all channels at once?

3) Imagine Me, Imagine You. The 'difficult' third single, and not quite in the same league as the above two, to be honest. The opening is pretty bland for them (ie bonkers in terms of everyone else). Some backwards tambourine, a few 'doodle-ang's and some Hungarian phrasebook lyrics. ('Or would you rather up my room/For wine and dining?') Still, there's always that humming bass synth, here sounding less like a menacing flying saucer and more like a welcoming fridge full of... well, Giro delight, probably.

4) He's Got Magic. Not going to win any awards for fine tunesmanship, this song, but it has that infectious boinginess that glam did so well. (Though ironically Kenny's The Bump, the song which celebrated early '70s pop's bounce, was one of the exceptions.) If I was angling for a Guardian job I'd suggest it's the aural equivalent of a space hopper. But no. Best instead to mention the inclusion of more upward key changes than Zager could shake an Evans at, and the weird panning-right-to-left reprise of the chorus at the end. Why not?

5) Red Letter Day. Essentially, Altered Images four years before the fact, though in every other respect (the squeaky-husky vocal gymnastics, lyrics about pink horizons and fancy magicians) this is early Kate Bush in embryo. How many classic pop acts did *you* pre-empt today? (Oh, and Lene Lovich, I suppose.) And best of all, the whole things anchored in that sort of squelchy synth oompah bassline familiar to fans of Orange Juice's Rip It Up. (And indeed the theme to Noah and Nelly.)

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Clued-up swingers will by now be screaming 'Wot, no I Like Electro People?' Of course, this theme to the Kenny Everett Television Show (mid-'80s BBC version, end credits only) was probably the first contact I had with Ver Fox, and it remains ace, even if you try not to get sidetracked into some mad conspiracy theory about how this came out a good six months before The Human League's Love Action, eh? Eh? All that aside, it's great to hear the always tech-savvy band move into full-on synth pop territory, although of course it wasn't officially credited as Fox for some trumped up legal reason or other. Really, it should be number three here. And Strange Ships should be at number five. Ah, forget it. Not sure what to make of this, which is supposedly the website of the lady herself, though it appears to have stalled about 18 months ago. Still, it does feature some new material, namely Judy Blue, a kind of 3 1/2 minute Bohemian Rhapsody/Tommy concept single with overtones of Andrew Gold's Lonely Boy and Kate Bush's There Goes a Tenner (and Nine to Five, in a strange way), while Fox herself adds Hazel O'Connor-style operatics and - gulp - baritone backing to her usual vocal toolbox. So she's clearly as nuts as ever, which is good.

3 comments:

Five-Centres said...

Is the Electric People tune available anywhere?

And did you know that Clodagh Rodgers was the template for Fox. Same producer.

I like this band - so mid-70s, and very popular in Australia.

Phil Norman said...

I'm ignorant of the Clodagh connection, I have to say.

'70s bands emanating (at least in part) from Australia are always great value. Even Sherbet.

Ian Fisher said...

I have got Electro People on CD. Still sounds amazing fresh today. Clever use of percussion and synths, and Noosha's amazing vocals. Kylie should do a cover of it.