Lawrence has always been a mess of contradictions. Brilliant yet frustrating, his early bands Felt and Denim should, by rights, have been huge, but both remained incognito to the wider public, albeit highly influential, at least becoming successful ‘underground’, with Felt’s ‘Primitive Painters‘ arguably being the ‘best known’ of the bunch.
Listening to Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! and the Possibilities of Modern Shopping, the fifth album by Go-Kart Mozart but the first under the Mozart Estate banner, that juxtaposition of inconsistencies remains. “This is the album of the year!” proclaims Lawrence on the long player’s outer wrapping. “No it fucking isn’t! It’s an album and it’s from the year, but that’s as far as it goes” is my initial instinct after three or four songs. It sounds like the soundtrack to fucking Oliver! on crack cocaine. I want to hurl it out of the car window. But then after half a mile, I feel like I want to drive back, retrieve said cd, put it back on and sing along. I want to track Lawrence down and shout “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” at him while simultaneously shaking his hand and congratulating him on making a record that is mind-bogglingly awful yet truly brilliant at the same time.
Let me explain – ‘Vanilla Gorilla‘ sounds like a Bucks Fizz Eurovision entry for fuck’s sake. Overly joyful, irritatingly catchy, ridiculous lyrics – it has all the ingredients that really should lead me to hate it, yet I don’t. Somewhat implausibly, I find it charming and delightful. Same with ‘The Purple And The Pink‘ which is like a cross between a Beatles novelty song, The Scaffold and Willy fucking Wonka. And yes, I am aware that I’m using the ‘f’ word a lot in this review. You can’t review it without using that word at least five times though, that’s the point.
Lawrence adopts a faux cockney accent on some of these numbers that even Dick Van Dyke would roll his eyes at, ‘Four White Men In A Black Car‘ and ‘Flanca For Mr. Flowers‘ being the guiltiest culprits, but again they’re both so infuriatingly catchy that you forgive them like a wayward child.
And then, out of the blue, after a barrage of ludicrous compositions that wouldn’t be out of place on either the Grease soundtrack or the psychotherapist’s couch, he hits you with the gorgeous ‘Honey‘, straight out of the ’70s Bowie songbook – perhaps even Dylan – and it is unrefutably the most affecting composition of Lawrence’s career. It’s painfully out of place but somehow it feels like it belongs exactly where it is. Lawrence, you brilliant arsehole, stop it, you’re fucking with my mind.
After several listens, the bits you originally thought were dreadful start to dance around like cartoon mushrooms in your mind and convince you that actually, no, those parts were a heap of fun, too. In short, Mozart Estate’s first/fifth album is brilliant, awful, spellbinding, throwaway, hilarious, annoying and, against all odds, loveable. Aargh! Just what the fuck IS IT???