Music

Momus: Oskar Tennis Champion

Christine Di Bella

Momus

Oskar Tennis Champion

Label: American Patchwork
US Release Date: 2003-02-11
UK Release Date: 2003-02-17
Amazon
iTunes

I don't know what I think of Momus. Ambivalence is pretty much as far as I ever get when considering the jet-setting Scottish-born artiste and provocateur. But, who knows, maybe that's the whole point, maybe that's all I'm supposed to feel. In which case, Momus' latest, Oskar Tennis Champion, succeeds admirably, since even after listening to it a number of times, it's still made no lasting impression on my psyche.

Momus (a.ka. Nick Currie) began musical life in the early '80s as a member of the early indiepop band the Happy Family. He soon left to forge a solo career, and quickly achieved equal measures of success and notoriety for his witty lyrics exploring psychological and sexual themes and outspoken public declarations. While his music was originally rooted in folk and indiepop, it later verged off into an almost wholly electronic sound, liberally interwoven with elements of chamber music. Over the years, Momus has tried his hand at art exhibition and musical curation; he even released an album bringing back the artist/patron model (1999's Stars Are Forever) in which all the songs were commissioned by people willing to pay Momus $1000 for the privilege.

Having previously lived in London, Paris and New York, Momus has now taken up Tokyo as his home sweet metropolis of choice. Momus' music has long exhibited a vast knowledge and appreciation of the pop cultural splendors of Japan (and he has achieved some of his greatest success among Japanese fans). But while Oskar Tennis Champion reflects some elements of his adopted country's music, from touches of kabuki to flashes of shibuya-kei and j-pop, it's mainly a laptop-type album that could have been made anywhere in the world. (In fact, the final product was created Stateside, as bizarrely, the whole thing was remixed by John Talaga, a native of Bay City, Michigan.) Whatever its geographic origins, the overriding sound on Oskar Tennis Champion, is a fairly sterile one: a chuga-chuga sort of electro-muddle, all pops and whistles and bon mots -- and no heart.

Listening to Oskar Tennis Champion feels like hard work for some reason. Perhaps the key to appreciating this particular incarnation of Momus is to pretend he's a component of an installation in a contemporary art gallery, or that the album is the soundtrack to an off-off-off-Broadway avant garde theater piece, rather than trying to experience it as music that is enjoyable or thought-provoking in and of itself. Oskar Tennis Champion seems to require attention, engagement -- but frankly, I'm just not sure it's worth the effort.

If you're not familiar with Momus, Oskar Tennis Champion really isn't the place to start. Go back to one of his seventeen other albums, and you'll likely find something more accessible and easier to form an opinion of.

If you are familiar with Momus, there's not much more I can tell you. There are the typical talked-through vocals, clever wordplay and smug self-satisfaction. There are the usual jokey song titles ("My Sperm Is Not Your Enemy", "Is It Because I'm a Pirate?"), the usual fascination with the perverse ("Electrosexual Sewing Machine") and literary illusions ("Beowulf (I Am Deformed)"). We get a track in German ("A Little Schubert") and a composition which recreates the main musical themes of the album in ringtones ("The Ringtone Cycle"). As a bonus, "The Last Communist" has the paranoiac heavy keyboard so prevalent in German-influenced electropop.

If you already like Momus' compendium of musical and lyrical quirks, then maybe Oskar Tennis Champion will seem the logical next step. But if you're ambivalent like me, the whole thing will leave you indifferent and untouched.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.