Vivid - Momus
This is the time... and this is the record of the time.
The last year has been an ordeal for humanity, an illumination, and has shown us in excruciating detail how fragile our grasp on what we consider normal life really is. For creative minds the forced isolation has not only impacted on income but removed the empathic connections with others that fuel their very work. Momus - Nicholas Currie - currently living between Berlin and Paris, in Berlin at the time this album was recorded, took inspiration from the captivity he found himself in, and his own brush with Covid-19, to produce a concept album on the subject using home tech, homemade samples and GarageBand, but sounding much richer and more nuanced than this would suggest. The result is a captivating, beautiful and mysterious diamond, a crystallisation of this new plague era. There is no pilot, but you are not alone with Vivid.
Momus has been releasing albums since 1985, toying with many genres, always approaching with lyrical genius whatever strange story or inflection of humanity he wanted to describe to us. Once a svengali producer of J-Pop, once an elder-statesman like influence on the Britpop scene, now perhaps more marginalised, happily working in the guise of outsider artist, he took upon himself the task of documenting life in lockdown, a Samuel Pepys bereft of cheese to bury but armed with artistic and cultural knowledge enabling him to dissect Covid-19 with the ease of biotech's finest. The songs do not let down the premise.
Oblivion opens all Nyman/Glass minimal, but with an utterly humanistic description of a world which is not always worth staying in, a "haggard old moll" calling closing time. The dark humour and cynicism continue with Working from Home, a brilliant backing for John Berryman's Dream Song 14, heavy bored of the isolation, and the introspection it forces us into. Momus then sings of his future absurdist plans in Ten Foot Hut, and September, with its pointedly twisting, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-is-a-train ambivalence draws us into Parasite, a wonderful riposte directly to the infection itself and tracing lyrical roots to the earliest of his work. The more upbeat Self-Isolation (the video featuring various fans including myself) allows musical nods to earlier heroes of the new-wave era. Empty Paris draws the situation to a more science-fictional future, Movement is a further minimalist masterpiece along with Long Distance Love. A cover of Tom Lehrer's I got it from Agnes is inspired, My Corona bemoans the impossible fight against his own bout of Coronavirus. Spring is a wonderful summation of all that the album has, classical, modern, lyrically concise and optimistic without glossing over the inevitable that waits behind it all. Towards the end, Fever Dream lyrically refers to classical imagery he pursued in his earlier albums. Optimism, another great lyric quoting Gramsci and reminding me of his own earlier eulogising on Palm Deathtop, using a similar sample, draws the album to a sobering but uplifting finale.
Vivid, considered and conceptually consistent in its title, the cover, the lyrics and the music, intellectually challenging and yet thoroughly accessible, is - without any possible argument - the album of the year.
the main image on this page... Momus, by ...