Former Zutons frontman unplugs the guitars and turns on the synths for his first solo album
Dave McCabe has, in his own words, been doing “fuck all” for the past five years. Nice work if you can get it and, let’s be honest, Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse’s cover of his old band’s ‘Valerie’ probably cash-cowed enough royalties to keep him in gainful unemployment until the Second Coming.
So it’s surprising that a) he should emerge from his coma to release new music at all and b) the music in question should be so entirely different to what made his name the first time around. But this marauding, Morodering electro funhouse of a record is to The Zutons’ sweetly stodgy soul-rock what ‘Mars Attacks!’ is to marzipan. The downside? I’m not 100 per cent sure our Dave had much to do with it.
From what I can glean, here’s how it worked: Mr McC wrote the songs at home on his guitar, then dropped them off at a studio where The Ramifications – namely Viktor Voltage, MF Doom collaborator Mr Chop, and Dave’s mate Ray – worked their Moogy magic. History doesn’t record how much influence Dave had over the final product, and to be fair it doesn’t especially matter because he seems like a smashing chap, but everything that’s a bit guff about this record sounds like it’s coming from him.
The lumpy songwriting, the hackneyed AI-gone-aye-aye-aye storyline that concept-albums its way through the 10 songs like a worm rotting out an apple, the closing track where pompous psychedelia threatens to suffocate the listener with a sweaty, tie-dyed T-shirt… Previous form suggests that stuff came from Dave. But the rest of it? The bits where The Ramifications set fire to a million analogue synths in the kitchen sink while devil-dancing up an army of evil space invaders? They’re tremendous.
‘Trust Me’ is three ways George Clinton funk, Knife City chiptune and Bowie’s ‘Fame’, before diving head first into a glorious THX Deep Note crescendo. The Gorillaz-esque ‘204’ comes across like Ace Of Base’s ‘The Sign’ on dog food. Not acid. Dog food. A bit disgusting and entirely barking. ‘Too Damn Good’ does its risky title justice, slamming its head like Dallas Austin-era Sugababes reworked by The Chemical Brothers, while ‘Intertwine’ sees a moody Depeche Mode popping the bubble-wrapped shroud of a six-week washed-up corpse. Only more fun. Slightly.
So, yeah. The actual songs? Other than the oddly Foo Fighting ‘Time And Place’ and the soulfully Sparklehorsing ‘Let Me Go (You’re Only A Fake)’, they’re ever so slightly crap. But the sounds? My, oh my, they’re wonderful. And it’s enough. Just because you’re flying to Benidorm, doesn’t make aviation any less miraculous. Just because you’re vomiting up your fifth pack of Pom-Bears, doesn’t make the global industrial-agricultural complex any less mind-blowing. And just because you’re listening to 10 songs that probably sounded god-awful when they were dropped off on a wing and a prayer, doesn’t make ‘Church Of Miami’ any less deserving of your worship.