Is John MOuse the Welsh Nick Cave? When you first hear Replica Figures‘ opening gambit, the bright and breezy sounding ‘The End Of Mankind‘, nothing could be further from your mind, but then you start noticing the disturbingly bleak lyrics esconced within. And in that moment, despite the poppy, happy-go-lucky musical accompaniment – provided quite splendidly by fellow countryman Sweet Baboo – the song becomes a fireball plummeting towards the Hellish sinkhole of, say, ‘Up Jumped The Devil‘. It’s certainly a most attention grabbing way to start; If tales of pregnant prostitutes with a penchant for grisly knife crime are your thing, you might well want to investigate!
Whilst there are shades of Cave here and there by way of lyrical phrasing, the most obvious reference points here are the likes of Jonathan Richman (‘Boogaloo‘) and, on ‘Bunkbeds And Broken‘, Nick Lowe, especially upon the super infectious “you may as well” chorus.
But those two tracks belie the moody atmospherics which make up the remainder of Replica Figures, and that is where the Cave comparison nestles in rather nicely. The starkly beautiful minimalist tinklings of its eight minute centrepiece, ‘The Boxer‘ – a ‘road movie’ scene of a solitary man travelling in a taxi – coupled with its simple, dreamy bass motif, conjure up memories of the Aussie icon at his most introspective.
The darkness is in abundance throughout, culminating in a finale – ‘Gladiator_Contender‘ – which seems to suggest an acquaintance of our main protagonist is seriously, almost certainly terminally, ill. Lyrics like “You won’t win this fight, you told me, no matter how hard you try. Goodbyes are quite hard to prepare for, and often they slip by without even realising it’s the last time you’ll see her face. The very last voice you’ll hear, the very last embrace” are hardly going to be a pick-me-up to anyone suffering from depression, but then, somehow, the chorus of “Contender, are you ready? Gladiator are you ready?” appears to be a sympathetic clarion call encouraging the critically sick individual to go forth into the afterlife. Somehow, despite its grim subject matter, it manages not to be remotely depressing.
As mentioned earlier, Sweet Baboo – more formally known as Steve Black – is an ever present on Replica Figures, and really that was something of a masterstroke. It’s a rather more low key affair than one might expect, but it works beautifully and further enhances John MOuse as an artist to be reckoned with.
Replica Figures is out now on Keep Me In Your Heart Records.