“Da da da, we’re a novelty band” – these are some of the first words you hear on Lawrence’s latest, released under the rather apt moniker, Go-Kart Mozart. Novelty indeed. This stuff is silly, occasionally kitschy and amazingly clever and intelligent at the same time. 16 tracks (plus one brief guitar solo, thrown in just for the hell of it) that could be described as part synth pop, part glam rock, all filled with some of the most exciting British melodies you’ll hear all year.
Back in the 90’s bands like Denim and The Auteurs were representing the darker, wittier side of Brit-pop. Amid that all-important Noel Gallagher vs. Damon Albarn farce, Lawrence and Luke Haines were quietly releasing some of the greatest songs of the decade. Denim was created after the demise of the brilliant, but frustratingly non-commercial Felt. Sophisticated jangle pop was traded for the loud, colourful glam rock (Back In Denim) and lush synth pop (Denim On Ice). Still, for all their undeniable appeal, Denim’s albums didn’t sell. Lawrence just couldn’t fit in, nor could he ever. For even when he came up with something as irresistible and radio-friendly as ‘Summer Smash’, he couldn’t break through: this time it was princess Diana’s car crash one day before the single’s release (imagine the ‘cruelty’). Doomed by obscurity and cult following, Lawrence started his third project, Go-Kart Mozart. Novelty, throwawayish, desperately low-key – but as tuneful and charming as ever.
On The Hot Dog Streets is like a nostalgic dream come true, and it doesn’t have one weak song. It’s an immaculate collection of infectious pop tunes that sound a lot more full-blown and realized than Go-Kart Mozart’s two previous albums. Here Lawrence is every bit the songwriter who came up with all those classic Denim songs. If you’re familiar with the essential bootleg Denim Take Over, you will definitely recognize quite a few of these tracks: the ridiculously catchy ‘Ollie Ollie Get Your Collie’, the smart ‘Robot Voice’ with that unforgettable chorus punch line, the mellow closer ‘Men Look At Women’, a few others. Lyrically, Lawrence is all venom on the vicious ‘Come On You Lot’ and the effective half spoken/half sung ‘Retro-Glancing’ with its delightfully Beatlesque ‘oh yeah’ vocal hook, and jaunty and hopelessly romantic on most of the others. But however entertaining Lawrence’s lyrics may be, you would want to listen to this stuff for those brilliant, distinctly English melodies – whether it’s the glammy ‘Queen Of The Scene’ or the darker, synths-drenched standout ‘White Stilettos In The Rain’.
According to the recent documentary on the man, Lawrence In Belgravia, a commercial breakthrough is still very much on Lawrence’s mind. However, you just fear it’s never going to happen, you just feel he is bound to spend the rest of his life travelling on the Tube – but consider how many people would wish to swap places: the guy is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. And On The Hot Dog Streets is a treat not to be missed. Articulate, intelligent pop music of the highest order, and easily among the year’s finest releases.
Released on 25th June 2012 by Cherry Red Records