A Weekly Song: Episode 12 - Momus
Momus - What Will Death Be Like?
Whether your tastes run to Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell, Tupac Shakur or Bertholdt Brecht, great lyricists are a breed apart, celebrated for both their existential and quotidian insights. Yet Momus isn’t a name that I hear mentioned often during discussions of the greats, and that’s an enormous shame. For my money, he is one of the most consistently brilliant and memorable songwriters around, and has been since 1987. Perhaps it’s because he sees himself as a satirist (or satyr?) and wordsmith more than a musician, although he wears many guises – he is the archetypal renaissance man, a polymath drawn to many different corners of the arts. He releases a new album every year, each one wildly different from the last and also spends his time as a writer, art critic, performance artist and storyteller. (Oh, and there is no such thing as a bad Momus album.)
“I like the idea of inauthenticity.“
Momus AKA Nicholas Currie, the son of a linguist, immersed himself in literature and became a pop star in pursuit of delicious fakery, modelled on Bowie’s idea of an ever-changing image. By his own admission, he’s always been “slightly peripheral,” not quite representative of any label he was ever signed to, an eternal observer and commentator. In my view, this makes him essential listening.
This song was originally released on the b-side of an EP featuring Murderers the Hope of Women and was released in 1986. Either I discovered it on the John Peel show, or it was a single of the week in Melody Maker. It knocked me out with its lyrical power and almost diffident performance. It features everything you could possibly want from a singer-songwriter.
That’s all you need to know really, but I entreat you to investigate further if you like a laugh, a good tune and some provocative storytelling.
And, remember folks, “Soft power, in the form of culture and entertainment is hard power’s facilitator and lubricant.”
Another version from Pyramid Drift
(Performed live on the occasion of the gala of the Great Pyramid, March 2008 at HAU 1 in Berlin, available on the anthology of the same name.)
You can find the original version of the song on Circus Maximus, and it’s also included in the highly recommended anthology from 2016, Pubic Intellectual. Yes, I spelled that correctly (both albums pictured above).
Notes and Further Reading
Momus Links to peruse. Start with his own website, an experience in itself - much to explore.
A Guardian essay - a gateway to Momus.
Brilliant interview on Cherry Red TV (his record label): just watch it.
...Or just google “Momus + NIcholas Currie” and immerse yourself.