The pun in the title is so blatant Simon Love almost gets away with it, and that’s but the first trick of this witty, intelligent collection of smart pop songs. A bright mixture of influences congregate allowing Love’s whole-hearted, slightly self-deprecating, persona to shine through, and permitting acerbic political observations to avoid any hint of shrillness. Much like Nick Lowe, while he may perform stylistic flits he remains ultimately himself.
The album’s title does encapsulate the record; Love, Sex and Death etc is about exactly that, if the presence of etc doesn’t disqualify exactness. He has, a mite mischievously, suggested this could be a concept album, but maybe he is the concept. There are certainly some tender and plainly personal songs, some anecdotal tales of romantic misadventure, and some strongly held opinions; there are songs to his wife and his son, and his father makes an appearance in the guise of Aneurin Bevan.
Making a bright beginning is ‘Me And You’, an adventurous, exciting love song in three movements. It opens with momentary misdirection; ‘I’ve got this sinking feeling your sinking feelings are through’; but its bright clusters of sound, with horns, and bells, quickly transport us to that good place for ‘the only me and you there will ever be’, and on the way we’ve had a wedding to celebrate.
It’s immediately followed by the acerbic, revenge song ‘I Will Dance’; quite Costello-ish, the sentiment expressed – ‘when you fall I will laugh, when you die I will dance’ – clearly not a far distance removed from ‘Tramp The Dirt Down’. ‘The Fuck-Up’ inhabits similar territory though its iron fist rests in a velvet glove of Spector-ish shimmer; at least until the excerpt from Bevan’s ‘lower than vermin’ oration.
‘North Road’ and ‘You’re On Your Own’ take us on an excursion to 70s North London; the former, on which he swaps vocals with Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin’, is classic pub rock along the lines of the Flamin’ Groovies or Ducks Deluxe while the latter, featuring Robert Rotifer on guitar, channels Muswell Hillbillies-era Ray Davies.
There’s Big Star-ish shimmer and a Scottish patina, plus a brief, telling horn interlude, to ‘Yvonne’ before the initially stark and country-tinged ‘I Will Always Love You Anyway’. gradually livens as the pedal steel comes in and the ensemble add body and chorus. ‘The Worst Way To Die’ provides more misdirection; its beginning suggests it’s going to feature a straight-faced, gruesome litany of bad endings but turning tender it indicates ‘the worst way to die is without you by my side’.
The near-seven minute ‘L-O-T-H-A-R-I-O’ is a long and self-deprecating tale of a ill-fated liaison initiated at the Buffalo Bar and culminating in an unfortunate fracas in a Waterloo hotel room. It’s very well-written and witty, carries definite undercurrents of 1965 Dylan, and every now and then morphs into ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ which is by no means inappropriate.
‘I Love Everybody In The Whole Wide World (Except You)’ then carries a dark little twist, and a final chorus from his son, who is then addressed in the imagined farewell of ‘Au Revoir My Dude’, full of warning not to do as his father’s done. All that remains is a brief reprise of ‘Me And You’ ending with footsteps and a door closing. While it may appear a bit contrived it’s actually a pleasing way to end what’s quite a dramatic and varied album holding the attention, sustaining the interest, and dropping more than a few surprises along the way.
Love, Sex and Death etc is available now from Tapete Records