If you have never heard The Shadow Kabinet’s epic album Smiling Worlds Apart I suggest you do it pronto. Especially if you love The Beatles. For with tracks like Tabla Motown (a quirky sitar driven instrumental) Office Life (Lovely Rita style pop) and the title track (think Harrison’s droney psych), multi-instrumentalist Steve Somerset, for he is The Shadow Kabinet, created a Sgt Pepper in miniature. And very good it is too.
Now an astonishing seven years on and Somerset is back with the third SK album Nostalgia For The Future. Having made his Fabs’ inspired pop masterpiece Somerset has fast forwarded a decade or so with Nostalgia and many of the tracks sound like they have their roots in the 70s as opposed to the 60s vibe of his earlier albums.
Sure there’s a smidgen of psych, especially in the album’s opener – the title track – and its Lennon-esque finale Let It Go, but in between the music’s inspiration hovers somewhere between 73-76. So you have Dust Descends Into Light – a droney slice of Wish You Were Here era Floyd complete with Gilmour-esque guitar and Ladder To The Moon, whose jazzy interludes and odd instrumentation recall Peter Frampton. The album’s opening single Angelville even has a whiff of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Games about it.
In some respects then Nostalgia doesn’t connect quite as quickly as its predecessor, but give it time. It really gets under your skin and stays there.
Somerset’s songwriting has blossomed too. There are some great off the wall lyrics, such as Have We Got Max On Board which imagines how a world war was temporarily postponed so the world’s inhabitants wouldn’t miss the final of the X-Factor. Or the story of a girl who falls out of her window in Camden in the intriguing Ladder To the Moon.
While the lyrics are often inspired and the arrangements ambitious it is the melodies that carry this excellent album. The title track may be Somerset’s best ever though Honey Glow Afternoon – a gorgeous slice of folk pop – runs it very close.
If you have ever loved Pugwash, XTC, The Orgone Box or any number of McCartney influenced US power poppers then you’ll adore this.
Get it here.
And if like me you can’t get enough if it Steve has rounded up some odds and sods recorded around the same time as Nostalgia, and indeed a few years before, on a CD collection called The Kabinet of Kuriosity. It’s an eclectic mix from the opening glam rock paen to Steve’s favourite north London football team, Arsenal Song, through to the Oasis-flecked psych of the excellent Scatterbrain. Along the way you get Kinks style strum-alongs like Dear Majesty, Sounds a Pound and Mutual Misery Society and a fake Bond song in Devil May Care. Best of all though is Victim of Love which has a whiff of T Rex in their bongos-driven heyday and The Acid Test delightful Beatley psych. Another gem.
Get it here.