Folkwit Records – 7 April 2017
Rarely has an album title been more descriptive than Future Melancholy Pop Music. ‘Future’, because, let’s face it, every artist worth his salt who refuses to rehash the past or paint by numbers likes to think of himself as a trailblazer. The ‘melancholy’ part becomes obvious from the first note, and ‘Pop Music’ it certainly is. For all his idiosyncrasies, Johnno Casson never loses his knack for catchy sing-along melodies or his love of ear candy and intricate arrangements that somehow combine 70s pop clichés, indie tongue-in-cheek quirkyness, and warbling psychedelica.
A very pleasant surprise is Casson’s lyrical prowess, a welcome change in the lyrical wasteland of so many contemporary independent releases.
Opener Hold no Shame sounds like a transmission from outer space, or perhaps a time capsule dug up a hundred years from now.
Packing a lyrical punch Middle Class Ways, starts out as a scathing indictment of middle-class values before effortlessly morphing into a plea to overcome our class differences and embrace our common humanity.
Follow begins as one of those bittersweet John Grant piano ballads, before, somewhat disappointingly, turning into a soft funk ode to making your own way in life.
A personal favorite is Marvellous Life, reminiscent of one of Ray Davies’ wry observatory ballads, so very British in the best possible way. It’s another lyrical feat, as the song starts out from the point of view of somebody tired of life, but then in the next verse, the sarcasm of the title turns into a genuine celebration of our earthly existence. Hats off to Johnno Casson the wordsmith, and kudos for the mellotron flutes, the sonic embodiment of aching melancholy.
Mental Health mines the rich treasure chest of 70s psychedelia to tell the story of somebody slowly losing his mind. If you listen closely, somewhere in the shadows, Syd Barret is cackling manically.
Some Kid features a forlorn cello over lush, minimal techno, telling the tragic tale of a Saturday night out gone horribly wrong.
Closer, I Leave it to You is minimal, just Johnno and his acoustic guitar, delivering a touching performance of a gut-wrenchingly stoic break up song, mixing wry humor with deep sadness. Johnno Casson is a master songwriter and wordsmith, who can deliver the goods just as well by his lonesome as backed by the production wizardry of longtime collaborator producer Wim Oudijk, who sadly passed away during the recording of this album.
Future Melancholy Pop Music is a record to be savoured, slowly and patiently, and gently allow yourself to get drawn into Johnno Casson’s unique lyrical and musical universe.
Out Now on Folkwit Records