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The Pee Wee Fist | Flying (Kimchee)
I'm sure it will have escaped the attention of most, but Peter Fitzpatrick is currently one of the coolest people on the planet. The latest recruit to the increasingly excellent Clem Snide, this is the man that has broadened their sonic scope with his multi-instrumental talents, to great effect on 'The Ghost of Fashion'. And live, he's so sickeningly cool, swapping instruments at will to add a sublime extra texture, dressed in cool '50's chic, with a cool fucking haircut, an air of detached knowing, and, if I was of homosexual inclination, a face I'd want to lick like a lolly. Besides the Snide, he also has business with Helium's Mary Timony in a synth-pop outfit called Green 4, and runs an avant-garde klezmer ensemble named Naftule's Dream. Also - wouldn't you know it - his nickname is 'Sweet P' - the coolest street name of them all. One of life's fortunates, he's got the lot, and in his other other other other band, The Pee Wee Fist, he has sneakingly delivered one of the great albums of 2001. Bastard. 'Flying' is inventive, moving and intelligent leftfield guitar pop with few faults. One criticism I would level, however, is that some tracks wind out for just that pee wee bit too long, threatening the nullification of the wonder that has preceded the moment where indulgence begins to stir. But I can forgive Fitzpatrick and his band these gorgings, because the admiration earned for songwriting brilliance outweighs any negative. 'Flying' opens in outrageous fashion, with the ludicrous and joyous The Seeds of The Day-1.1, 1.2 & 1.3. Fractured guitar and random percussion provide a loose, psychedelic bed for Fitzpatrick's vocal, before drums hammer in, and a vocal mantra kicks off. This collapses into clumsy Gallic jazz-punk, (Pazz? Junk?) then surges into a strident rock beat underpinned by accordion, the  phrase "Blow away the seeds of the day" now delivered in glorious harmonies. Then, quel surprise, the Pantera guitars crunch in, and after a bit of posturing, disentangle themselves to go off on individual noodling solos, leading into the theremin solo, more harmonies, and guitar strum to end. And...relax. So, that's the first track. Beauty and the Beats is up next, and is a country song of true grace and fragility. Concerning the search for the definition of beauty to each of us, the lyrics are wondrous. The album's lyric sheet is an avalanche of wordplay, skeewif imagery, intelligent narrative and deep emotions: Look at this - "Oh to find it on the highway / oh to find it in a box / in the plummeting hail / or the rising stocks," the possibility of beauty in travel, discovery, nature and money - or cars/driving, history, weather and power - all in 22 words. Don't know about you, but I always find such thoughtful observations impressive. There is a trove of lyrical skill to mull over throughout, but it is best to dive in yourself, rather than hang on my particular interpretation; I can't resist revealing this though, from the Pavement-y shamble-pop of Pedicure: "Everybody's got a foot inside his mouth / salty toes can take a lickin' / who'd have thought that we could be so flexible? / There's no surprise it tastes like chicken." There's so much to thrill here, like the spine-tingling, fuzzy slow-burning Let's Go (Deja Blue); the stoically lo-fi Jeffrey Lewis-esque Golden Voices, resplendent with muted feedback and excruciating nails-down-a-blackboard string scrapings. The Go-Betweens jam with Mano Negra at a Faust convention on the brilliant Ghost of a Plastic Bag; Full Stride is early Prefab Sprout with a teenage Ben Folds on vocals, and is how I feel I Am Kloot or South should sound. Besides which, it namechecks firehose. Part Lou Barlow, part Hendrix, Hi Hi is pure genius; Mnemonic Hordes is the finest country-pop jaunt of the year, and noted for the liberating sci-fi synths and cheesy organ, and the startling 8 minutes plus of Falling Out sees Howe Gelb partying hard with Bill Callahan. Only one track fails; Chinese Star in Metal Shop is flaccid college rock, redeemed slightly by elements of the nostalgic lyric. This aside, it's a great album, and Fitzpatrick currently has the air of a potential Todd Rundgren about him, where projects will cascade from him, all the girls will want him, and the musos will worship him. Bastard.

Tom Sheriff
November 2001

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