Love Minus Zero - Psychobaby. A distorted adult face with a menacing grin looks slightly like the shape of a babies face.

Love Minus Zero

‘Self-styled man of the people!’ Drums roll in, like encroaching thunder. The accompanying lightning is extremely well aimed.

Pete Doherty has – to an extent – been traduced by our righteous media (not least as corrupter-in-chief of popular Sunday School teacher Kate Moss) and, even at his most degraded, is still more musically interesting than anything Carl’s chaps have come up with. No easy parable there. Showbiz editors and opinion-piece humbugs may sneer, and we’re entitled to take their sneering with a pinch of salt.

When the accusations of general scumbaggery come from musicians who’ve played with our man, they carry more substance. The Perrett brothers played on the very first cut of ‘Killamangiro’. I dug that out in service of this review, and if it sounds pretty flat (and it does – not a patch on the later album version) maybe it’s because they were daydreaming about hitting the singer over the head and dumping him somewhere he’d never, ever be found.

‘Psychobaby’, I think, came into being just after the Perretts split from the Babyshambles circus; it was certainly in existence when they played the Boogaloo as the Cuts in January 2005. Heard here in its full glory, what a song it is. Bug-eyed denunciations can so often be whining and petty, but this is triumphant, all the way from those war drums to the mariachi trumpeting that soundtracks the glittering, call-response chorus. It’s a song whose best revenge is to live well. You probably won’t encounter more bile in three minutes this year – my own personal highlight comes at the end of the first chorus, where Jamie spits, ‘Totally devoid of truth!’ like it’s the last word in summing-up for the prosecution – and it carries a wonderful melody over its skanky beat.

‘Watery Eyes’ seems to be about the same benighted subject, and is much less of a ‘single’ type of song, only yielding its power after a few listens. The skank is slower and dubbier, the tune less compulsive, but in the end it still gets you. The contempt here is darker, more threatening. Jamie Perrett has one of the best snarls known to humanity, and in ‘Watery Eyes’, which has none of the boisterous glee of ‘Psychobaby’, he’s actually scary, exuding a menace you wouldn’t choose to mess with.

‘Ten Watt Town’ is a shocking and tender departure. Over an asthmatic harmonium, Jamie muses on the colour of his true love’s hair as seen under an extremely dim (and thus romantically atmospheric) light-bulb in olde Accrington.

Hang on, that’s nonsense, and I’ve got the wrong CD in. Love Minus Zero don’t really do peace and love, at least not here. ‘Ten Watt Town’ is vitriolic again, nailing provincial small-mindedness rather than shambolic king babies, and is the kind of vignette Weller would have been proud of at the Jam’s very peak. It’s a pop song of a kind, with more creative guitar work than you hear in most of those and the warm sense of a band vibing off each other, staying tight but spontaneous.

How much Love Minus Zero’s avowed contempt for the ‘Scene’ will hinder their commercial progress remains to be, ah, seen. These gripping songs, along with their recent iconoclastic appearance at Harrods – indeed, the rough joy of their live performances in general – suggest they’ll make their own way, under their own terms.

Written by McLaughlin on

Stuart McLaughlin was a regular write for [the-mag] and was frequently seen in live music venues in search of great new music.
Stuart McLaughlin

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