What do B52s, The Fall, Primal Scream, Chocolate Watchband, The Carpenters and Wire have in common? Most likely and arguably, nothing. But they do all sound like The Pocket Gods. Or rather, The Pocket Gods sound like all the above.
Over 67 albums and 40+ singles, you expect a band to change tact now and then. But The Pocket Gods launch into everything, mixing it up track by track. Condense that restlessness down to a 22 song Very Best Of, one song for every year going, and the result is an ear-twisting free-wheeling lo-fi pop freak-out that flirts hard with B-Movie weirdness. And just in case the wild synthsounds and ET psychedelia doesn’t ram that point playfully home, this compilation is bookended and intermissioned for your pleasure by The Unexplained’s host, Howard Hughes.
From the pure Primal Scream-esque pre-Britpop indie of ‘Searching For The Devine’, which could be a never-mixed Hacienda gem, we head straight to the twee summer jangle and haze of ‘Music From Crap Cartoons’. While ‘Dracula AD 1972’ recounts Levitate era Fall at their least/most cohesive in its full run of 1 minute 5, the next track is a stripped 60s trip that verges on Syd Barrett sweetness.
This is a mixtape pure of eccentricity, a showcase of British off kilter absurdity in line with XTC, Troggs and The Kinks. Some tracks are cute, dunk and lazy. Others are single hit sludge. The excellent ‘Jombal Party’ could have been crafted by any mealy-riffed 80s/90s post-punk band, or it could belong to The Novas as a B-side to their cult hit ‘The Crusher’. ‘I’m the Ed Wood of Indie Pop’ hits the same highs of throwaway trash. With its Rezillos-pinched hook and thin dayglow synths, with its backing vocal that out-amateurs The B52s, it’s a moment of absolute joy.
These highlights and pop freak-outs are numerous, we stretch lo-fi indie templates to their sunshine fuzz limits and skirt around 60’s Brit garage. But amongst all the bombast and stylistic hedonism, there’s a thread of a lived with depression. The cute songs are forlorn, their happy sounds spiked with a deadpan delivery that mingles with shy retro psych. Maybe that’s what makes us Brits so damn cooky; in a drizzled on nation of stiff upper lips, it’s our strange outward egos that save us, shown here in our in warped whacked out music.
Does this restlessness make for good listing? Yes. No. Sometimes and most definitely. Even the great songs aren’t great but there is a great something to them, some undefined thrill of a mess. This is a could-be a cult best of, of a should-be cult band, it’s everything you’d expect from its title.
‘Mimzicorn Invents A Time Machine‘ is out now, purchase through old fashioned mail order (firstname.lastname@example.org, £10 inc UK postage).
Catch highlights as always on Rats On Run Radio.