Imagine you’ve been invited to a party, except when you arrive at the party you can’t find the person who invited you in the first place. Not only that but it turns out it’s not even a party at all, but some kind of bizarre carnival where people are wobbling around on stilts and jostling each other for a giggle.
That’s kind of what it’s like when you first jump into ‘Political Freak Show’. It’s not at all that the track isn’t engaging and fun, it’s just that it’s something of an enigmatic surprise. In terms of sound, we’re firmly in ELO territory – upbeat, jangly, with some perky brass to keep things honking along. There’s certainly a proggy feel to the music too, with hints of Thunderclap Newman, particularly on the vocals. And that’s a large part of what makes ‘Political Freak Show’ a track that feels oddly familiar. Much like that feeling of turning up somewhere and it not quite being what you expected, it’s also a bit like realising that there are a lot of interesting people around to get to know. Have a chat with that guy on stilts and you soon discover he’s quite a charming guy.
It’s somewhat refreshing to find that Roger Cole and Paul Barrere are creating music that doesn’t pander to some of the throwaway pop that we are subjected to from every angle these days. Not only are they firmly allowing their influences to show through, but there is also evidence here of artists who are striving to create music that stands out from the crowd. True, this is the kind of music that could quite easily have been produced three decades ago, but there is something inherently charming about the fact. It’s a bit like those times when you dig out some old vinyl that has been kicking around for ages but never really got given a spin, only to discover that in that collection of records there are some undiscovered gems, and they seem to sound as fresh as ever.
Lyrically we’re treated to some gloriously abstract and cryptic imagery; “High heeled cougar with spots walking down the midway / Sniffing that penguin’s bouncing on a trampoline.” At times it’s as though someone has taken some of the Beatle’s wooziest lines and stirred them up with a few of Pavement’s more angular imagery, and that’s exactly the right kind of recipe for songwriting that leaves the listener as baffled as they are satisfied. The crazy circusesque music perfectly matches the lyrics, painting a picture of a mad festival of fun, with people wandering around enjoying themselves while being simultaneously pleasantly confused.
While ‘Political Freak Show’ fits a certain niche, it’s probably the kind of tune that will excite some while simply not be to the taste of others, but here this can be a good thing. It’s a track that knows exactly who it is catering to and serves up the goods in spades.