There’s an oft-cited quoted, dubiously attributed to Einstein, which goes “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results”. With this idea in mind, I’m not sure what to make of Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures’ latest collaborative effort My Ass. The album has many of the elements which made Gin an immediately appealing collection of songs. It contains sinuous horn melodies, jaunty, bouncing rhythms, bursts of David Tattersall’s guitar mastery and Brinks’ at once whimsical and casually observant lyrics. So it’s natural for me to expect this album to have the charm of its predecessor.
It starts well enough. Though the lyrics to “My Camel” are a bit naff, the music is tight. Brinks (real name André Herman Dune) and co. sustain a suitably plodding groove. It’s a slow piece of hip-hop informed rock, which at the same time shows such rhythms don’t have to convey only bling and machismo. If only the rest of the album kept this pace.
The chugging four-by-four country rock of “Brighton”, the second song on the album, is simply dire. I haven’t had such a visceral dislike of a song by an artist I admire in a while. The real pity is that the lyrics showed potential. “Pints”, “trains”, “chips” and “West Pier” – the song is an assemblage of the “anglicarna” which both artists excel at. Perhaps the delivery should have been more musically in line with the text.
“Fire to my Mind” continues this early musical nosedive. This song pastes together a host of lyrical clichés over a sound that wouldn’t be out of place in a seniors’ dance class. As I listened, I imagine Brinks in a lamé suit, gyrating, fists clenched around a microphone while someone accompanies him on a mere keyboard. I don’t think the assumption of irony can save this nor the equally cheesy second single “Berlin”.
The final two songs on Side One “Love me Too” and “Run Along” improve the tone a little. “Love me Too” returns us to the prowling beat of the opening track, though lyrically Brinks sounds a little too direct. “Run Along” continues the romantic desperation and down beat, albeit bluesier, tempo.
Side Two doesn’t come across as any more inspiring. Too much of the music, whatever the intention, sounds like the blandest moments from rock’s history. However, I don’t want to end on such a downer, so I’ll point out my two favourite tracks. “Think about you” takes us back to the desert sands for one last trip, replete with Brinks’ meandering, sun-drink horn. And the first single “Wakefield” is a delightful slice of updated ragtime, which shows that Brinks and The Wave Pictures can expertly step out of the pop idiom, providing the second idiom suits their sensibilities.
The previous album Gin seemed like one of those rare occurrences – a delightful marriage not only of musical minds but of music and texts. My Ass doesn’t manage to meet up to this standard. Or perhaps I’m the mad one to expect musicians who have achieved something once to do it all again.