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Robert Rotifer | A Different Cup of Fish (Survival of Defeatist)
The classic back sleeve shot of an acoustic guitar resting on a bed of randomly scattered (read: carefully placed) album sleeves, books and memorabilia doesn't, in this instance, give too many clues as to the content of Robert Rotifer's debut on this weeks most fantastically named new label, unless that's the point. Randy Newman, Bo Diddley, Faces, The Artwoods and Pete Townshend stare out at us, when what we're really dealing with is something akin to Mutations-mode Beck. Further confusion arises with the (additional production) involvement of Austrian bombed-out dub cadets Sofa Surfers on a couple of tracks, and that three were recorded as Metic, Rotifer's previous outfit. I'm not wild about this album, but, the recordings spanning back to 1996, I'm glad for him that he's finally got it released. But, there are things that I do like. No doubt recorded when there was money to do so, a lot of thought has gone into getting the required sound with such financial constraints. In the producer's chair, Rotifer attempts the different; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Best of all is Hothead Speed Racer, a messed-up, well-heavy psych-pop ditty - something like The Soft Boys and B.R.M.C having a tear-up in a paper shredder. Elsewhere, there is the Pulp-do-ska of Continental Casino Classic, and flashes of the Super Furries and Daniel Rachel on Need To Know, the tracks often linked with street chatter, birdsong, tannoy announcements and a music box, giving 'A Different Cup of Fish' a very English feel. This is underlined further by some of the lyrical themes; the ecstasy of Northern Soul, getting your head kicked in on a train and, er, Ian Hunter. But, the Spanish Civil War, US foreign policy and the immigrant's lot are also considered by way of looking beyond the doorstep. Most cinematic is Armchair, a tale of getting mullered at the apartment of a Nuremberg dope dealer, discussing The Boxtops as G.I's and freaks parade through to collect a fix. But, despite obviously monumental Rotifer efforts to add sparkle with a Latin flourish here, and a little challenging discordance there, much of the material is tuneless, clumsy, beyond help. It's a shame, because the packaging is lovely, and I can almost smell the effort that has gone into this project by all concerned. Still, labels have been launched in much sorrier ways, so I hope some small encouragement can be drawn from that fact.