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Keith Top of the Pops ‘Fuck You! I’m Keith Top of the Pops’

Keith Top Of The Pops (TOTP) & His Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band is a very remarkable project – one that will probably make more sense in a live environment, and one that, on paper, is surely not transferable to record? A former sound engineer, Keith TOTP created the ‘band’ spontaneously at an Art Brut gig – the support band pulled out and Keith took to the stage with a couple of Art Brut to haphazardly play some of Keith’s own compositions. From this point on Keith decided to create a live project that had no planned lineup, did not rehearse, performed no sound checks, and used as many or as few instruments as they had lying about. So Keith TOTP can, and has, played with as few as two members and as many as twenty.

An exciting, perhaps hit and miss live prospect sure, but how could the chaotic essence of a band of this sort be recordable? On their debut album – ‘Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops’ – Keith has recruited a mass of different musicians playing various instruments for each song, and arranged the track listing based on the songs’ first performance. Keith plays alongside members of Art Brut, Carter USM, and We Are Scientists (among others) to create 10 short, noisy cuts of rock’n’roll, each one with a different sound quality, but each one of them exceedingly memorable.

Opener ‘Girl’ is a bluesy punk rock number with plenty of wailing guitars, ‘Call Me’ contains a nostalgic 60s vibe, and ‘What’s On Your Mind’ is a downbeat folk-rock duet with Sarah Nixey of Black Box Recorder. The highlight is the middle couplet of ‘Two Of The Beatles Are Dead’ – a barrage of distorted guitars nearly drowning out some nice acoustic guitar work and an infectious melody – and the hilarious and rocking ‘I Hate Your Band,’ which bitches about most UK indie bands. This is a punk rock album in spirit, with the song structures remaining simple despite the hordes of contributing musicians, and the album clocking it at under half an hour. However, there are clear traces of rhythm and blues and glam rock within this alt-rock noise, which add just enough variation to the band’s sound without toying with the consistency.

Keith’s songwriting style, not to mention his voice, is reminiscent of Mark Oliver Everett (Mr E) from Eels – the songs are simple with short verses, accessible hooks and small but infectious melodies. This is very apparent on the Eels-esque closing ballad of ‘Try Your Best,’ plus the fact that Keith even incorporates a snippet of Eels’ ‘Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living)’ at the end of the upbeat ‘Go Away.’

Naturally, an ambitious project of this sort is not going to sound 100% perfect. So often the guitars (or one layer of the guitars) are too overbearing, the drums are often mixed too quiet, and the noisier songs means that Keith’s humorous lyrics are sometimes slightly downed out. Also, if one weren’t aware of the experimental nature of the songwriting, lineup and recording then the charm of the record would be entirely missed (this is an example of where the labour must be recognized in order to enjoy the fruits). Nonetheless, this is a decent effort from a project that deserves recognition, if only because Keith TOTP has actually managed to pull it off!

Originally published by AAA Music here

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~ by cliveparisrozario on September 19, 2011.

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