Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine
(Strike Force Entertainment SFE045)
The upbeat ‘Statement of Intent’ opens Andy Bell’s seventh studio collection, and from the word go, it’s on its feet, weaving and punchy. The cavalcade of ‘liggers and leeches and fair weather friends’ are dealt with economically, and Andy even sucker-punches the listener with a spat-out ‘Go To Hell’
‘Beautiful Libertine’s weaving melody sets the scene for a lamentation about the romantic Paris of poets and philosophers, long since replaced by today’s smart neighbourhoods and tourist traps. Undeterred, our runaway seeks out the French capital’s more dangerous pleasures in lesser visited arrondissements, in some of the most elegant lyrics on this CD.
The sinister, Brechtian ‘Loitering With Intent’ takes delight in its vengeful diatribe, suffused with sardonic humour. Accompanied only by piano, Andy continues the Weimar cabaret theme in ‘This Town Needs Jesus’, a matter of fact, slap-down story of disgust, disease and despair with the age-old possibility of an offer of redemption. The tinkling sound of a piano playing at a party punctuated by police sirens opens ‘The Slums We Loved’, a reminisce about a past many would choose to forget. Our narrator has fonder memories in this song of the low neighbourhood which provided at least a shelter, a pub to visit and a dark corner for an exciting tryst.
‘Lady Domina Bizarre’s opening telephone message makes certain the listener knows what he or she is in for, and then throws them straight into a full blooded music hall tale, delivered in purple prose, peppered with profanities. Our first taste of electronica is remarkably light touch, but there’s little else in ‘(Ooh Baby, you’re So) Queercore!’ that could be so termed. A joint vocal with firebrand bar singer Lana Pellay, this motor mouthed, box-checking dismissal of a supposed former lover proves too trying for this listener.
A perfunctory backing leaves enough space for another one way conversation in ‘Blow Jobs For Cocaine’, with our narrator showing a curiously censorious side to the deliverer of favours he’s also been prepared to give to others. The chanting and fearful vocals to ‘I’m Your Lover’ recalls Sweeney Todd more than the late Mr Bowie it seems to be aiming at, but the gorgeous Eastern beat and Grand Guignol imagery is well worth listening to. The best thing about ‘Rupert Drinks Vodka’ may be its backing, as its brief, catty tale of an old lush unwinds with little humour and even less interest.
The hard, reviving dance beats of ‘We Were Singing Along To Liza’ shows realistic single potential. Sticking to a well-loved musical formula in a fondly remembered tale, this one gets my vote for standout track.
With a cloying music box backing, ‘Photos of Daniel’ unrolls the regretful tale of a former life with a certain humour, and any resemblance to characters living or dead, is presumably only an unfortunate coincidence. It’s rare that Andy lets that fine voice fly here, and a shame we have to wait until ‘I Am The Boy Who Smiled At You’ for an involved, emotional performance of a song with the depth and rawness its subject deserves. With our ration of passion behind us, it’s back to delicate piano notes overlaid with standard sleaze, in ’Bond Street Catalogues’. Lyrically, it’s a winner, with a tale of a money-grubbing bawd doing what’s necessary to amass the ackers, but being more Carry On that Jacques Brel, it’s just a footnote here.
The steady rocking guitar, bass and synth Euro-epic ‘My Precious One’ represents more singles material, making this listener wish for a collection full of this honest-to goodness pop.
‘To Have And To Hold’s all too brief, gentle croon does its work, then blends into a reprise of ‘Statement Of Intent’, to deliver the coup de grace. Andy’s strengths are well known, but maybe they’re all too rarely on show here. BUY HERE!