Music

Mayonnaise: self-titled

Tim O'Neil

Crispin Hunt & Will O'donovan)

Mayonnaise

Display Artist: Mayonnaise (howie B, Crispin Hunt & Will O'donovan)
Label: BMG
US Release Date: 2004-09-28
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

On the face of it, it would be easy to dismiss Mayonnaise as a low-rent Gorillaz. Crispin Hunt is the voice here, instead of Blur's Damon Albarn -- Hunt used to be the frontman for the Longpigs, a mostly overlooked British group who arrived too late to the Britpop party before imploding in 2000. They never did accomplish anything in the United States. In place of Dan the Automator we have Howie B, the renowned Scottish producer whose career has managed to stay unerringly below the radar.

But despite the critic's natural tendency to dismiss everything new based on passing resemblances to past acquaintances, I will refrain from making the obvious comparison. The Gorillaz were hardly the first act to make a go of the pop / electronic hybrid crossover supergroup action -- they were just the first to make a massive international success of it. People have been making albums like this at least as far back as Public Image Ltd. -- which is not to say that this sounds anything like PiL, just that these types of eclectic projects are borne from similar impulses.

Which is all a fancy way of saying that Mayonnaise is a devilishly tricky album on which to get a bead. I've listened to it more than a few times now, and I have to say it is a uniquely interesting experience. Now, does "interesting" translate into "good"? That is a question to which I do not have an answer.

The album's main preoccupation would seem to be the concept of layered textures. Hunt's voice has been purposefully placed apart from the main thrust of the arrangements. You have beats and synth lines and samples coming together to form strangely unnerving rhythmical patterns, and Hunt's voice floating above the proceedings like a distant echo. The predominant emotion is melancholy regret, and the insistent disconnect between Hunt's voice and the rhythmical framework certainly contributes to the feeling of incipient sadness.

This album seems custom-made for late night bull sessions, waiting for the sun to come up over a frigid winter landscape. It seems oddly ragged, like a half-finished thought left hanging in conversation. The first track, "Death Defying", sets the tone for the rest of the album with a tuneful vocal set over a crisp electro breakbeat. It almost reminds me of something you might expect to hear imported from a Nordic country -- its got the same kind of frigid intricacy that artists like Royksopp, Frost and Ralph Myerz have made their stock in trade. "To My Head" is the most obviously "Britpop" track here, sounding very much like a lost B-side from one of Ian Brown's post-Stone Roses projects or even a particularly grungy remix of a Robbie Williams single.

The rest of the album, however, is nowhere near as demonstrative. "Blueberry" is a strange little ballad built atop a series of fuzzy synth echoes. "Time" is an extremely reserved instrumental that could have just as easily been released on an Information Society album circa 1988. The album picks up a bit with "Falling Star", which places a muted hard house beat under Hunt's lackadaisical romantic lullaby. As with many things on this album, the dichotomy creates an oddly disassociating effect, like listening to two different songs by two different artists. The contrast creates thematic friction.

I still can't really say if Mayonnaise is a bad album or a good album. Sometimes that kind of ambivalence is an obvious cue that the album in question just isn't very good: but regardless of my confusion, the album remains rather interesting, albeit in a uniquely depressing manner. I don't know if I'd want to listen to it very often -- because its more than a little bit glum -- but it is an interesting experiment that yields odd dividends.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image