Wondrous winning whimsy!
Anyone who likes either Vivian Stanshall or Pink Floyd may find traces of those respective brands of Englishness in Lord Gammonshire’s whimsical and humorous debut album, Lord Gammonshire's Guide To 'Everyday Sounds'. The atmosphere starts light and heady: Cheese is eaten late at night, sheep are counted, rocket-powered canoes and girls float by, and office workers philosophize as Gammonshire chucks catchy couplets such as, “I’ve got wasps in my beer / I’ve got wasps in my beard” into a lost summer’s haze. The cover collage gives an accurate picture of this quirkiness as a man stands in a cup of tea with an alpenhorn, a pipe smoker examines a tube, there’s a large apple and distant clouds, and people cover their ears. The second half of the album turns away from west country tropicalia to a broader progressive rock landscape in which the excellent “Tundra” stands far out and “Rise of the Stromalites” flips from Captain Pugwash-like sea shanty to even groovier instrumental deviations.
Some words of warning about those big name references: Lord Gammonshire enjoys word play (“The Uncivil Servant”), sound effects (cork popping), and the magnification of domestic minutia in which, say, a salad screams, but there’s no pointless attempt to match Stanshall’s passion for the sound of words, his feverish imagination, his fully-fleshed out characters, or his gorgeously ripe delivery. Also, 'Everyday Sounds' is not like Floyd’s raw psychedelia, pulsing space rock, or bombastic grandeur. Instead, it hints at that band's playful and pastoral sketches. Imagine something like Kevin Ayers doing a version of "Fat Old Sun" and "Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast".
Hats off to Lord Gammonshire for the moniker (which recalls early calypso greats), for taking a stab at eccentricity, for the charming song structures, and for the coherent production. If you’re in the mood for Moog or mellotron, idle alliteration, and progressive pretensions, 'Everyday Sounds' is beyond mere retro-parody. Though you may prefer to live without such tansy, it’s a lovely change from the familiar tired tide of nakedly deconstructionist navel-gazing alt-pop. This record is a treat that may grow on you -- algae, daydreams, killer herons, and all.