Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Always Colourful: Pop Levi's Never Never Love

I really love Pop Levi. He's like some psychedelic prophet who lives on the same beach as the Walrus and the Carpenter. I've been a fan of him ever since I first heard the former Ladytron-bassist's album The Return to Form Black Magick Party last year. Songs like Sugar Assault Me Now and Pick-Me-Up Uppercut managed to blend old styles into something psychotically modern, Levi's voice straddling the line between child-like coos and glam exaggeration - listening to Pop Levi is like watching one of those old film strips where the action is sped up to double-time while Marc Bolan bleats over Bollywood music through a gramophone. Pop Levi's latest album, Never Never Love, is going to be released in roughly a month, and I'm happy to report it still blends off-kilter rhythms with Levi's distinctive voice and simple, but esoteric lyrics. And it makes me hear a rainbow of sound.

Opening track, Wannamama, is very old-style rock 'n roll/rockabilly as Levi croons "I wanna mama," a Ballroom Blitz for the Noughties. The "break break" refrain from Pick-Me-Up Uppercut makes another appearance in this song, giving this track an even more solid place next to the bouncier fare on this last album. Title track, Never Never Love, has a fantastic syncopated rhythm that could be Middle Eastern cha-cha while some electronic elements buzz and whizz through the stripped-down beat - grimier latin ballroom where the dancers spin and shake on vermillion dancefloors. The following track, Dita Dimoné, which has already been released as a single, continues with some bare-bones drums, but then electronic fuzz, handclaps, and funky guitar turns it into something quite different, but no less danceable. Semi-Babe takes the album into a different breezier, acoustic direction, which bubbles, pulses and floats like a magenta lava lamp sat at the fulcrum of a lime-coloured teeter-totter. Fire On Your Feet struts to a funky beat, soulful, but sometimes loses its cool and has mini freak-outs with drum fills and speed changes. The cleverly titled Mai's Space is an electro-inflected reggae number, highlighting the highest, dog whistle-pitched register for Levi's voice as he provides his own 60's girl group chorus.

Like Semi-Babe, You Don't Gotta Run is slower and lighter with a summery West Coast feel, floating with hazy, turquoise anticipation like a surfer drifting along waiting for the next wave. Oh God (What Can I Do?) is yet more upbeat pop while Levi pouts and preens, and Everything & Finally is a low-key electronic tune while Levi shimmies and grunts his way through like Prince grooving away on a purple trampoline. Love You Straight is a song full of self-assured love-making promises to laidback psychedelic beats bathed in a mellow yellow sunshine that recalls a little bit of Gruff Rhys. Call the Operator takes yet another turn with a folkier tone mixed with tropical leanings, which ends with quite adept playing of a touch-tone phone. Calling Me Down slows the album down even further with a piano ballad, and the album ends with Fountain of Lies, a track with a string introduction before hitting a wave of New Wave synths, and while Levi's font might be poisoned with falsehood, this song feels cool and refreshing, an ablution after some of the sweatier numbers.

As a whole, Never Never Love veers from wide-eyed technicolour pop to cheeky soul to grimy funk, and it's all held together by Pop Levi's eccentricity. Pop Levi always paints bold aural colours, and this record takes his sonic palette into new weird and wonderful places.

Never Never Love - Pop Levi

Dita Dimoné - Pop Levi

Everything & Finally - Pop Levi