The sleevenotes for Go Kart Mozart's third album take almost as long to read as its 18 tracks take to play. There is a reading list, containing books on sociology, music and mental illness, many of which appear to be made up: you'll search Amazon in vain for Sanitary Ramblings: Women With Their Knickers Down by Dr Ono Powers. There is a playlist, which reveals that On the Hot Dog Streets was made under the influence of both Wiley's Avalanche Music 1 and Thing, a flop 1972 novelty single by Edwina Biglet and the Miglets. And there is a list of potential band names for anyone inspired by the album itself and "thinking of having a go": Doughnut Corporation, Female Rejection, Unlikely Pub, Bing Bong Crosby.
There's something brilliantly, defiantly insane about the notion that anyone is likely to be inspired to form a band in Go Kart Mozart's image after hearing On the Hot Dog Streets, let alone take advice on their name – or indeed, any aspect of their career – from their frontman, Lawrence. Even the makers of the documentary Lawrence of Belgravia, who think he's an unsung genius responsible for some of the greatest music of the last 30 years – the lambent, cascading abstractions of Felt; the brilliant, glam-fuelled dissection of pop culture on Denim's 1992 debut Back in Denim – might baulk at the idea that his is a path anyone should follow. Commercial failure is part of his legend, compounded by the sheer oddness of much of his music. There may be no greater example of major record labels' misguided profligacy in the Britpop era than the fact EMI saw fit to release Denim's 1997 album Novelty Rock: "We are the new potatoes," he sang on the opening track, before offering songs called Tampax Advert ("being on is no hassle – girls love it, it's great") and a cover of the theme from the 70s sitcom Robin's Nest.
But it was in fact an indicator of the direction he's continued to pursue in Go Kart Mozart. "Mister A&R man, he don't understand," he complains on the optimistically titled Lawrence Takes Over and, as it shifts from tinny electropop to mock pomp-rock to pub knees-up and back again in the space of three minutes, you can sympathise with Mister A&R man's bafflement. If On the Hot Dog Streets isn't quite as confounding as Go Kart Mozart's previous albums, where blackly comic songs about heroin rubbed shoulders with a track about the Rwandan genocide called Drinkin' Um Bongo, its contents are still so far removed from anything even on the fringes of alternative rock as to make your head spin.
The best way to describe its sound is to imagine an alternate musical universe, where the shrill pop new-wave of Kim Wilde's debut album and the tinpot experimentalism of Lieutenant Pigeon have supplanted the set texts of rock. Syndrums ping, trebly guitars chug, there is the occasional deviation into oompah and at one point a burst of terrible cod-Jamaican toasting. Amid all this is As Long as You Come Home Tonight, a heartbreaking ballad about a sickly relationship: "It's at moments like these, I get down on my knees, I can't summon the strength to even leave." It's preceded by song called Ollie Ollie Get Your Collie, which appears to be about cauliflowers.
Perhaps Go Kart Mozart's fans are engaged in an act of indulgence, putting up with stuff like this in the belief that Lawrence will eventually collect himself and start making music as beautiful as Felt's Forever Breathes the Lonely Word or The Splendour of Fear again. But however abstruse On the Hot Dog Streets seems, it's powered by the same melodic facility as those albums: believe it or not, the tunes of White Stilettos in the Sand, Blowin' in a Secular Breeze and, indeed, Ollie Ollie Get Your Collie are indelible. It's often howlingly funny or discomforting, or both – I Talk With Robot Voice offers a saga of emotional disconnection, complete with the refrain: "Yet I admit I'm still susceptible to vaginas."
Whatever you make of it, you'd have a hard time arguing On the Hot Dog Streets is anything other than unique: the sound of a man pursuing a singular, uncompromising artistic vision, as he has been doing for the last 30 years. You might call it inspirational after all.
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