Tag Archives: Franz Yusef

July 2021 – single & track reviews – Franz Yusef vs. David Peel & Friends’ ‘How Lucky We Are’; Fatum Aeternum’s ‘Spiders’; The Academy of Sun’s ‘It is Finished When It’s Destroyed/Ghost Foxes’

3 Jul

Had he lived, Tim Smith would have been sixty years old this week;  but with a wealth of Cardiacs-inspired music still riffling up from the underground like a crop of wheat, it’s almost as if he was still here.

Celebrating Tim’s birthday, Franz Yusef vs. David Peel & Friends are an assortment of his fans – principally Israeli odd-rock maverick Franz Yuzef and half-hidden Liverpudlian talent David John Peel (who’s had stints in The Farm and with a pre-Space Tommy Scott, amongst others), but also Eric Kearns, Johnee Beegood and Bobby Bilsborough and Pocket Gods’ Noel Storey. ‘How Lucky We Are’ is an unabashed tribute, full of open sentiment, but with the words attempting to recapture some of those peculiar, endearing Smith sensibilities – the touch of the maritime, the open and unashamedly awkward emotionalism, the sense of gleeful rampage, and the strange public mixture of schooling and punk idiot savant. “How lucky we are / to have known that man, / to have heard his mind / trample kindly through our own, / tickling through the tar. / How lucky we are.”

It could have been winsome, it could have been embarrassing. It could have been a coy cop of Smith-y sound. In fact (although it’s a close-run thing sometimes) it’s actually none of these. It’s more of an inhabiting; a realisation that Smithworld isn’t something which you should pastiche, but a sensibility which you can slip into. Franz sets up a web of awkwardly-related synth and organ chords over a rattling-door haunted-house rhythm and then turns them all into family, venturing out on a strange, stretched-out harmonic limb that always feels a second away from breaking apart. The feel constantly flickers between mediaeval to the dark recesses of Victoriana to this week’s inspiration; there are fake reeds and a Mellotron, and a sort of sonic flickering, like a swamp at the deepening of the dusk.    

Meanwhile, Franz clambers from point to point on this web, dotting down David’s words as a theatrical incantation and a thanksgiving, replete with that slightly arcane and macabre Cardiacs touch; that fractured grammar; and, for the fully committed, glancing references to Smith lyrics. “How lucky we were to be a part of miracle fun, / to sing the score of heaven, / to hear the brave son, shine on. / To swim the waters there. / How lucky we were…. / How lucky we shall be / to shout the crowns of majesty, / to bring our children to the sea / and hold their heads beneath the waves / of glory not unfound and see / how lucky they shall be… / We are better / for having known him.”

Israeli multi-genre rockers Fatum Aeturnum are playful and theatrical, as were Cardiacs, but they don’t quite swim in the same peculiar seas. They’re a more self-consciously artful proposition – flashy, stagey board-stompers whose avid raiding of heavy metal, jazz, Paganini violin heroics, Goth rock, gypsy dance and even little dollops of Shakespeare turn them into a obvious, omnivorous circus act. But they do what they do with heart, humour and lip-smacking gusto (especially not that they’re lightening up a little); and ‘Spiders’ is heaps of fun.

It starts with swing hi-hat, big-band saxophone riffs and diving violin, only to have them blown up by burly metallic bass and by guitar riffs tossed in like precision cherry bombs. While this is noisy enough to punch out the flap of a cabaret tent, everything that’s been blown up falls slap-bang back into place. Sonically, it could be early King Crimson (the blood-red crunchy big-band jazz sandwich of ’21st Century Schizoid Man’) meeting Iron Maiden, with kooky Muppet Show vocals sprinkled on top: you can toss in the straighter end of Mr Bungle and the weirder end of The Stranglers if you want to. Away from the geeky comparisons, you get a carefully controlled set of romps and explosions. Stunts, but no chaos. Bits of it may wriggle like eels, on cue; but (as ever in the circus) nothing’s left to chance.

It might be ironic, then, that the lyrical targets of ‘Spider’ are those who make a religion out of regulation – and vice versa (“We expect you to be good people / since we erect our holy steeple. / Pay your taxes, live on the edge,/  buy affordable, conquer your rage. / Watch TV, drink some Coke, / give away your life as a joke.”). Fatum Aeturnum’s real target, of course, is structured consumerism; and as I imagine them prancing around in their satirucal marketeer’s masks, I’m reminded of some of the more fantastical Brechtian clowning which popped up at one end of British psychedelia during the ’90s – Sleepy People, Poisoned Electrick Head. Plus, of course, somewhere in counter-culture heaven, Daevid Allen must be grinning a little. “Keep on running, with your blinkers – / we don’t appreciate the thinkers.”

Traces of the Tim Smith spirit also seem to have found their way into The Academy of Sun‘s ‘It is Finished When It’s Destroyed/Ghost Foxes’ single (a limited-edition double-sider cut by Graham Duff’s boutique label Heaven’s Lathe). If so, they’re wrestling with a rabble of Nick Hudson’s other influences – on this occasion, dark British psychedelia, Cramps-y psychobilly, Goth rock and rattling lysergic American garage rock.

It’s typically diverse Academy of Sun in that it’s volatile, ready to shift. At any moment the light could polarise. ‘It is Finished…’ opens with warnings of tainted help, of murder and dysfunction, sailing along as a mystic-urban incantation with a spider-strewn Goth riff before lapsing into an unexpected silence, changing gear, then coming back with a prog boost and a doubled-down sense of doom. (“Lie down, lie down, they all lie down – / the walls are falling in this town.”) It sounds like nothing so much as a fateful, biblical-apocalyptic meeting between the Bad Seeds and long-gone ’90s Britpsych comets Levitation

‘Ghost Foxes’ showcases another side to The Academy of Sun. Gnarling along on a 13th Floor Elevators/Seeds tip, and kicking off on a stop-start guitar slam, it reminds us that there’s more than one meaning to acid wit.  “If I had a book of unhealthy stuff, I’d like to let you read it / but gazing at your fevered eyes, I don’t know if you need it… / If you don’t think my love is true, maybe magic doesn’t believe in you. / If you feel you’re being ignored, maybe change the batteries on your ouija board.” It seems to be bringing a prank perspective into a relationship, although where it’s therapy or some kind of weaving, elusive kiss-off is difficult to see as it ducks and dives behind its off-beat witticisms and peculiar maxims. “Used to be a part of me, / but all that’s left is electricity. / Ghost foxes are best on the periphery.”

Throughout, though, it crackles with verve and interest. “What a curious time to be alive!” interjects Nick, partway through, and apropos of nothing. You feel that it’s that which propels Academy of Sun onwards, through apocalypse and squabbles and failed understandings. A keenness of curiosity.

Franz Yusef vs. David Peel & Friends: ‘How Lucky We Are’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Streaming single
2nd July 2021

Get/stream it from:

Franz Yusef online:
Facebook, Bandcamp    

David Peel online:

Fatum Aeternum: ‘Spiders’
self-released (no catalogue number or barcode)
Download/streaming single
2nd July 2021

Get/stream it from:
Bandcamp, Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music

Fatum Aeturnum online:
Homepage, Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Deezer, Spotify, Instagram, Amazon Music, VK

The Academy of Sun: ‘It Is Finished When It’s Destroyed/Ghost Foxes’
Heaven’s Lathe (no catalogue number or barcode)
7″ vinyl-only single (100-copy limited edition)
2nd July 2021

Get/stream it from:
Heaven’s Lathe (vinyl), Soundcloud (stream)

The Academy of Sun online:
Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Last.fm, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram


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