This organically-grown Northern archive album comes from a fluid line up of band names and band members performing and recording between 1998 and the present. Now LOQUI, formerly LOKI and once-upon-a-time VERTIGO GREEN, Rob Paul Chapman and Stuart Hudson have recruited and exploited every genre known to post-Essex Man, while boldly staging anywhere between two and fourteen band members.
If they had been born 50 years earlier these guys would have run a dance band, like Eric Delaney or Billy Cotton. 25 years later than that, maybe Zappa would have been their muse. But there they were in the 80s and 90s, with their irreconcilable best-mate obsessions with Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, funk and acid jazz. The outcome was implausibly predictable: a greatest hits album from a series of bands whose biggest seller did over 200 singles in the Hull area alone. It’s called "I Can't Believe It’s Not Better" and, advisedly and soberly, I suggest it’s an album you might want to own it even if you don’t personally know the principal characters.
One of the several reasons I say this is that it really is in a class of one. I've never heard anything a bit like it.
Secondly, for a band who seem to find taking things too seriously a physical impossibility, the quality of arrangements and instrumental playing is pro session player level. There's a hell of a lot of stuff to listen to, and Hudson's Pink Floyd obsession isn’t something he can't (or doesn’t) follow through. "The Diner" unleashes some impossibly dense note showers, and in every one of the dozen tracks there's something else to sit up and lean forward to.
A personal favourite is the garage punk jazzness of "Straight Outta Brompton". A punchy horn section and splatteringly tight rap lyrics have SOUL COUGHING quality keyboards and rhythm section – and a freaked out Hudson guitar solo too. Fruitcakes or what? Chapman's demonic laughter adds more than traces of nut.
The funked over "Remote Control" from 2002 shows off some bouncily magnificent drumming and several layers of very neat guitar and synthesiser lines,. "Scream" slams The Stranglers into a studio with raving jazzfunksters. An acoustic live thing "The Pied Piper Am I" won’t cut a lot of ice with Al Stewart or Donovan fans, but the bare fact that the same people who gave you the Floydian wigout of Starship Part 1 and the amphetamine Chas and Dave satire of "Down At the Toothbrush" are also doing a gentle fairy tale for doing magic mushrooms too is … well. It just is.
The track you will scream to have turned off or turned right up could have been named to celebrate the rodentesque physiognomony of Andrew Lloyd Webber. "Hamsterman" actually steals a big chunk of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (which all session players must have had to busk through at last once in their early careers). It has great girly chorus and pummelling bass. It could equally be about Robbie Williams or any overblown celebrity with more ego than sense. It captures the eclectic and restlessly subversive showmanship that runs through so many different disguises on the rest of the album.
It also sets up unreasonable expectations for a brilliant album from the current settled and super-talented line-up. Over to Loqui, then.