Too much music, it turns out, really can addle your mind. Witness Tim Burgess, host of numerous nightly Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties for over two years now, and showing clear and critical symptoms of what The Lancet is yet to officially dub Sonic Head Scramble. The Charlatans frontman’s recent solo records such as 2020’s ‘I Love The New Sky’ have skewed towards the melodic yet experimental, but this sixth solo outing – recorded with Spiritualized and Julian Cope keyboardist Thighpaulsandra and Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan and very much ironically titled – sounds like all of the sounds that have been stacking up in his brain over 1200 Listening Parties have reached critical mass and come billowing out in one double-album eruption of ideas. The effect is something akin to Spotify becoming self-aware and blaring out a high-density beam of cult indie pop from its mouth for 90-odd minutes.
Which is to say you should go in to ‘Typical Music’ prepared to be repeatedly baffled, in a good way. It opens reassuringly enough. ‘Here Comes The Weekend’ is a cheery indie pop saunter about missing someone who’s weekending in New York, in which XTC, The Wedding Present, Blur and Super Furry Animals appear to collaborate on a chorus that could’ve fallen off an Apples In Stereo album. Glorious stuff. ‘Curiosity’ is equally catchy but instead comes on like a French Sparks playing harlequin pranks on The Stranglers’ ‘No More Heroes’ with Skrillex. Then ‘Time That We Call Time’ then flits between gospel folk and glitchtronic lounge oddity, by which time you’re well aware you’re in for a record that’s going to feel like getting lost in a genre cloud.
These are songs that lull you into a sense of stylistic security – galloping Morricone, say, tropical jazz or, most often, the sort of psychedelic space-age lounge vibes that characterised ‘I Love The New Sky’ – then head off in oddball directions without warning. The synthetic robo-salsa of ‘Revenge Through Art’ comes laced with electronic elf vocals. ‘After This’ feature psychedelic Madchester, intergalactic Beach Boys, sci-fi carnival and android post-punk segments. ‘L.O.S.T.’ is dreamy Gallic pop that grows a doom metal interlude en route to a seven-minute run time. This is a record you hang tight to the bonnet of while it takes squealing hairpin turns.
If you can keep up with it, Tim’s natural melodic impetus races through the album, kicking into high gear on ‘Slacker (Than I’ve Ever Been)’ but easy to lose track of in the proggier art rock moments (‘View From Above’, ‘A Bloody Nose’, ‘Take Me With You’). Likewise the core sentiment of the record – largely caught up in a rush of new romance, which may or may not be inspired by Tim’s rumoured new relationship with Sharon Horgan – can become tangled in surrealist imagery and diary details: “I draw a picture of us in 1983, communing with an alien,” he sings on the title track, while the orchestral pop ‘Quarter To Eight’ concerns being late to meet Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame in Notting Hill.
But the shift from ‘I Love The New Sky’s emotional maelstroms to the flushing optimism of ‘Typical Music’ shines through on the idyllic psych country meet-cute ‘In May’, ‘What’s Meant For You Won’t Pass You By’ – which sounds like Tim preaching spiritual karma in the shadow of the War Of The Worlds tripods – and ‘When I See You’, a phasing love song that announces itself in a spoken word intro as “a song about how I felt when I first saw you…the sparks in my brain and the fireworks that go off in my eyes”. Sparks and fireworks go off all over ‘Typical Music’ too and, bar a few inevitable misfires, there’s plenty to gasp at.
- Release date: September 23, 2022
- Record label: Bella Union