Written by: Dave Cantrell
Whatever level of lasting insight attainable to one engaged in this music-writing game – if any at all, that is – can be condensed into some version of what may be life-in-general’s most useful aphorism: the more you learn the more you realize the true depth of your relative cluelessness. Known more succinctly as the wisdom paradox, it’s a conundrum that’s bound to club you over the head no matter what your field of interest but lordy is it a potent leveler over here in the digitized monster of the music world. However prodigious one might believe one’s knowledge to be, there is always going to be some glimmer shining from what you took to be a favored corner of your deeply informed fandom that you not only didn’t know was there but nearly blinds you with its relative genius, in the process tearing down your wheelhouse and forcing you to rebuild it again. Welcome, then, all you Jazz Butcher/Kevin Ayers/early Costello-loving aficionados, to your latest reconstruction project as represented by the sure-to-endure work of Mr. Simon Love.
Cutting to the proverbial quick, let me just point out (and this may or may not be pertinent in the longer scheme of things here) that it only takes twenty seconds on Love’s self-produced new album Love, Sex and Death etc (released on the ever-estimable Tapete label on April 8th) for a cello to make its sonorous appearance. That it sneaks into the mix of what’s an otherwise boisterous, parping pop track – and, yes, a trumpet in all its brassy flourish does indeed help escort “Me and You” toward the exits – that romps along tripping over its own cleverly spiked tropes like some giddy combo of Coward and Davies should give you as much of an emblematic foothold as you might require. However, seeing as that also (correctly) implies that there’s a lot to unpack here, we strongly recommend that you unpack to your heart’s content. If, as we do, you have a jones for the wry songwriter with a somewhat twisted classicist bent, you’ll find the delights on this record, in both word and sound, piling up around your ears with immodest haste.
Think Chris Butler with a generous twitch of Welsh wit (not to mention a subtly audacious grab bag of sonic touches – is that a kazoo we hear on the anti-Tory stomper “I Will Dance”?), this Simon Love fella gets to the point while having a damned fun, inventive time doing so. “The Fuck-Up,” despite its title, places itself with tongueless cheek right there between Broadway and Carnaby Street, the Kinksian romp that is “North Road” is a masterclass in pumped-up horn-blasted country soul pop, “Yvonne” is the matured teenage love song that Lieber/Stoller and them forgot to write (speaking of which, the similarly bent, morbidly poignant, funny-but-not-at-all “The Worst Way to Die” is without a doubt one of the most touching songs I’ve ever heard), while “I Love Everybody in the Whole Wide World (Except You)” brings to mind the elliptic acidity of Nilsson for which one can be but eternally grateful. And then, well, there’s “L-O-T-H-A-R-I-O.”
A story song of some length (as they often are) told with both the wit of a cuckolded bard and a bloke-ish, quite charming self-effacement, it’s a track that deserves its more or less centerpiece role on this record just by its sheer craft alone, couplets bounding along with a puckish aplomb. But when adding in the dead certain universality of the ‘fling that never got flung’ tale being told (male cis specific but recognizable to nearly all) you’ve got a new standard-bearer of the form, which we think you’ll agree we’ve needed for some time so more thanks to Mr. Love.
All said, those delights we promised above hang about one’s listening experience here like some glowing pop penumbra, glints of a certain restless genius sparkling around your head cartoon-style. As a title, Love, Sex and Death etc. can’t help but suggest a troll through some of this existence’s most weighty entanglements and while to an extent that’s a fair enough cop – many of life’s trickier alarms do go off throughout – the end result equates to a fine if slightly complicated day out inside your headphones, almost as if you’ve stumbled upon the liveliest, most stimulating, house-of-mirrors carnival you’ve ever been to, where, as it happens, the calliope on the merry-go-round plays this new Simon Love album on endless loop. [fall giddily in love with Love here]