Like a forceful breeze on an arid summer day comes Keith Top of the Pops & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band with F*ck You! I’m Keith Top of the Pops. An album title this straightforward and a band name that winkingly over the top risks putting some more “serious” music fans off, something which is both a boon and a bane. While those of the irreverent indie pop persuasion may get the most satisfaction from Keith Top’s debut, there are also quite a few instances on F*ck You!... that reveal Keith Top to be as competent at songwriting as he is at subverting.
F*ck You!...‘s first two tracks indicate the album’s two flavors: derisive, Half Man Half Biscuit-style rock put-downs, and more straightforward sixties-style pop tunes. Both directions are equally effective. The album kicks off with “Girl”, a song which appears to be both a jangly, tongue-in-cheek kiss-off tune and a criticism of the ages old tradition of rock misogyny. The closing utterance of “bitch” is equally a funny shock and a thought-provoking jab. “Call Me”, its follow up, is nary of the former and much of the latter, a surprisingly straightforward and heartfelt statement of availability.
For all the loveliness of Keith’s more straightforward songs, as the album progresses the more mocking cuts just gain the upper hand, ultimately claiming victory with the one-two punch of “Two of the Beatles Are Dead,” and “I Hate Your Band”. The Beatles, in spite of being one of the easier sacred cows to slaughter, provide Keith with some clever observations, such as stating that John Lennon “thought he could save the world by staying in bed”” The closing Beatles pastiche gives the impression that Keith and his all-stars had a fair bit of fun in collaborating on the song which, like the rest of the album, was recorded on the first take. “I Hate Your Band” is both a delightful rocker and a complaint over the appalling state of London bands (and Muse). It is perhaps the album’s most Half Man Half Biscuit moment, albeit with less obscure references. Bands that are a couple hundred miles away from reaching the canon—ranging from Bloc Party to White Lies—are name-checked; the aplomb with which they are attacked is a refreshing counter to today’s largely toothless indie rock scene.
The album’s remaining songs try to match the energy of “Two of the Beatles Are Dead” and “I Hate Your Band” with heartfelt emotion, and nearly succeed. “What’s on Your Mind” features some delicate backing vocals from the one and only Sarah Nixey, best known as vocalist for Black Box Recorder (Nixey’s BBR band mates, John Moore and the peerless Luke Haines, appear elsewhere on the album, playing the saw and wah wah guitar, respectively). Final track “Try Your Best” closes the album out on an honest-to-god uplifting note. In between is the album’s self-titled track, a ballsy almost-outro meticulously placed so as to stifle the frankness of the proceedings.
While not quite as on point as some of his more obvious influences, Keith Top of the Pops holds a significant place among his peers. For those who find the Indelicates too impenetrable and Eddie Argos’ talk-singing too off-putting four releases in, Fuck You! I’m Keith Top of the Pops is for you. But it is also for you if you like clever lyrics and artists who have a grasp on how to do clipped, back-to-basics pop songs right. Keith Top of the Pops—he needs an introduction now, but with hope this will not be the case for much longer.