Misty’s Big Adventure – The Family Amusement Centre (Grumpy Fun)

s Big Adventure The Family Amusement Centre

It’s full blown ska skank-friendly syncopated horns from Hannah and Lucy Baines, coupled with Sam Minnear’s limb-shaking drum beat that opens this fifth LP from Birmingham outfit Misty’s Big Adventure, the reassuringly dry tones of frontman Grandmaster Gareth intoning the track’s title Aggression over and over, in a track made more topical by the summer’s rioting, that it suddenly turns into a sci-fi drum and bass version of itself for a brief aside is just the cherry on an already delicious confection that’s somehow both laidback, paranoid, wry and danceable. That’s always been the joy of Misty’s Big Adventure though, they create instantly accessible pop which marries imagination born of a diverse musical knowledge with humour and songs that speak of contemporary malaise yet remain utterly timeless.

The Disney-baiting M****y M***e switches from an antagonistically snarled main refrain into an adorable choir of children spelling out the titular villain’s name, whilst the instrumentation lurches into a hi-tempo drum beat and pounded piano keys care of Lucy Bassett. It’s followed by the free-to-download single I See A Cloud, a dreamy love song which plays on Gareth’s ability to pull the heartstrings with a deceptively simple and relatable lyric over pleasant instrumentation that, with a crafty eye, rises into swoonsome elegance. It climaxes in a spine-tinglingly triumphant sing-a-long of ‘I don’t want to be on my own anymore!’ that practically makes you feel like you’re skipping down a sunny street with a full heart even if you’re listening to this shut in your bedroom in the middle of a rainy night with an empty can of beer.

Still Haunted By The Same Ghost is a jazzier number, enlivened by a choral mantra of the title’s first three words in a twinkly, scatty middle section that gives Louis Clark’s string arrangments a chance to really shine and Sam Minnear to throw in some tasty breakbeats. Here it’s evident how much giddy inventiveness has gone into the production of this record, Pete Abbott and Grandmaster Gareth have gone all out to drench every second of this album in technicolour wonderment. Cheer Me Up, for example, features Gareth singing at his slightly despondent and sombre best contrasted by Jon Kedge’s guitar which is a fruity delight, whilst Emily Baines adds some chirpy flute to the utterly buoyant mix.

There’s a filmic quality to The Bigger The Front, its horn arrangments feeling like the spirited soundtrack to a festive John Hughes movie and some shimmering disco-styled strings and wah-wah guitar thrown in for good measure, and whilst it’s never a dull listen it’s perhaps the first somewhat unfocused track on the album, a nice side salad rather than a flavour that feels like part of the main meal, and it does a fade out, which I’m always a little biased against.

New live favourite (for me at least) Atonement begins with Gareth groggily stating; ‘I decided to let you take over my mind.’ It drops in and out with sinister glee as he draws out the title’s first two syllables before the loose-limbed, ragged beat comes bounding back in. As the track drops down for a second time Matt Jones’ bass guitar pulses away optimistically in the background, those syllables – now joined by a wealth of voices – crying out whilst that bass line and Minnear’s drums keep your feet tapping, it’s a big warm hug of a track by this point, you feel like wrapping your arms around the shoulders of people either side of you and dancing like fools and at this exact moment in come the horns to send the whole thing soaring to a beatific conclusion as Gareth cryptically chants ‘We’re all satellites!’.

Sir Patrick Moore lends his vocal to General Confusion, a The Magic Roundabout-like ditty that shares certain similarities to Misty’s own The Kids Are Radioactive but turns into a peculiar Saturday morning cartoon as Moore’s eccentric grandfather storytelling makes an appearance. If that track winds up a tad off-course it’s reprieved by the next, Queen Betty, which casually bemoans the royals whilst telling a heartfelt and personal tale about an Auntie who was ‘ruling from the setee’ in amongst a whirligig of scattershot keyboard bleeps and bloops.

Misty’s get close to turning into Paul Simon on Just Another Day a travelling song with big wide eyes and breezy, hopeful lyrics over alt-country flavoured instrumentation. They’re back to on familiarly oddball ground on the swaggeringly quirky The Noise Eater, lo-fi horror movie organ over Jones’ menacing bassline. It goes surprisingly Philip Glass-like during an orchestral section before edging towards an apocalyptic meltdown that takes in such bizarre aural reference points as the children’s short film The Snowman coming to a massive psychedelic epoch before zooming out to reveal an eerie little toybox.

Closing track A Long Line of People has a placid accepting quality that is far more optimistic than, say, the whole of the previous LP Television’s People or The Long Conveyor Belt from the close of Funny Times, its sentiment that ‘there’s a long line of people I have known’ paints a mental picture of some kind of Frank Capra It’s A Wonderful Life-style coming together of friends and relatives into some kind of life-affirming embrace and display of emotion.

In many ways this record feels like a relative of 2007’s Funny Times moreso than any other Misty’s record, yet – though touching on many familiar themes – it’s a more bright and cheerful alter-ego sharing the same melodic and lively DNA. This record is a Misty’s who are energised and rejuvenated after the emotional exorcism that was 2008’s Television’s People, a complex concept album. Now, with this album they’ve brought the fearless experimentation of that latter record to the catchy choruses and pop stylings of earlier releases in what is undoubtedly a finely crafted, memorable and instantly re-listenable treat of a record.


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