The history that Nicholas Currie (a.k.a. Momus) carries with him is nothing short of fascinating. In the beginning, he was a member of the Happy Family, featuring three members of post-punk legends Josef K. They released only one album on 4AD. Choosing to work under the name Momus, his first album came out in 1986, and then the controversy started. His albums were often hyper-sexual, namely 1991’s Hippopotamomus, which he dubbed “a record about sex for children”. The results landed him in court. A later marriage to a 17-year-old girl from Bangladesh put the two in exile, as her parents tried to kidnap her for an arranged marriage in their home country. Many other things were happening and getting Currie into trouble, but he apparently didn’t give a damn and kept recording prolifically.
The new album Hypnoprism was born out of an experiment with YouTube, in my opinion something quite innovative. He would record the songs, create his own videos for them, and upload them right to the site. Hypnoprism is essentially the “hard copy” of those 13 songs, for those of us who like to hold a CD in our hands.
Avoiding producing something akin to a gimmick, the album is quite solid, with many moments of brilliance. The strongest tracks include “Deliverance”, a diabolical hybrid of Soft Cell, Of Montreal, and the Normal’s (or Grace Jones’s) “Warm Leatherette”. “Bubble Music”, undeniably the best composition here, plays like avant-garde New Romantic; think mid-era Talk Talk and Roxy Music’s “Avalon” in an utterly unique setting that transcends the tired trend of 1980’s throwbacks. “Mr. Consistency” is an amalgamation of Her Space Holiday and/or Mates Of State, 1970’s AM pop melodies, new wave synthesizers, and the sparse, electronic rhythms of Suicide—quite impressive. Then there’s “Datapanik” (...in the year zero?). Yes, I just made a Pere Ubu joke. Nevermind. Anyway, the track features exquisite electronic and vocal melodies, as understated as they are, meshing together rather nicely.
Other standouts include the title track, mixing the sounds of the Sea & Cake, the Divine Comedy, and Donald Fagan. “The Charm Song” takes bossa nova, sophisti-pop, a bit of early Les Baxter exotica, and a hint of Owen Pallett orchestration. There’s only one failure on Hypnoprism, the final track, “Strawberry Hill”. Bizarre and unappealing, it’s sloppy bedroom pop indebted to Prince with perplexing, atonal deconstruction filling up the ending. But I’ll forgive him.
Hypnoprism is not filled with sexual controversy, but well-crafted eclecticism where nothing seems out of place. That’s a respectable feat for someone who tackles so many genres. These days, we need more artists taking chances, and Currie comes off here as the king of taking chances, in a nice, intriguingly creative package.