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Bobby Conn | The Golden Age (Thrill Jockey)
It's business as usual for Bobby Conn. After the brief stopgap 'Llovessongs' EP, comes his most musically realised work. With his long time collaborator, violinist Monica BouBou, ringmaster Conn cracks the whip and sets his crack team of session musicians about their paces, with astounding results. The trademark skewed funk and epic orchestration of previous releases are all present and correct here, yet executed with a greater degree of confidence. After a series of fluctuating line-ups, it seems that Bobby has finally found the dynamite musical squad to flesh out his unique proclamations. You see, behind the punchy arrangements lurks the mind of the Conn. Not just any old showbiz war-horse is our Bobby. He is in fact the self confessed Anti-Christ, and mop-top Speedo swimming trunk sporting horseman of the Apocalypse to boot. Bobby feels that the end of the world is nigh and he needs to share his beliefs with us all, before it is too late. All the constant themes in Bobby Conn's work are covered on 'The Golden Age'. We hear cautionary tales of various weird druggy shenanigans: witness tales of cocaine and swimwear in Angels and fear the Pumper's world of stumps, crutches and "getting high". We learn that succumbing to 9to5 drudgery is an act of undiluted evil (Winners), the accumulation of wealth for its own sake is tantamount to prostitution (Whores) and that we live in a depraved age of greed (The Golden Age). But, hey! Salvation is at hand with our hero's own balm for spiritual sickness. Bobby is an exponent of the "Continuous Cas$h Flow System", a vision which came to him whilst imprisoned at a federal facility for fraud (No, really). He hopes this system will free our hearts and souls (The basic equation being: Spiritual void + money spending abandon = A glorious debt and freedom from "the man"). It has to be said that few artists working in the pop idiom have the spiritual salvation of mankind as a primary motivation. And even fewer have fantastically arranged tunes in abundance. Bobby Conn uses gorgeous melodies and familiar song structures to convey his radical notions. Musical nods to Sergio Mendez (The Best Years of Our Lives) and Serge Gainsbourg's Ballade de Melody Nelson (A Taste of Luxury) indicate that Conn is clearly a fan of lavish and exotic textures. Elsewhere we have homages to the Motown Sound (Angels) and the uncut funk of Parlafunkadelicment (No Revolution). Bobby is not shy of a genre hopping arrangement either: the delights of Brecht and Weill, chiming acoustic guitars, Richie Blackmore's Rainbow circa Since You've Been Gone and soaring falsetto vocals joyously co-exist within the confines of You've Come a Long Way. Whoever coined the statement about the Devil having all the best tunes was just waiting for Bobby Conn to come along and fulfil that particular prophesy.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002