Sat Aug 9
Nick Currie (AKA Momus) is a designer eye-patch wearing, technology- and culture-consumed Scotsman who has had quite a productive and controversial career as a musician and multimedia artist. He owes as much to the baroque pop of Serge Gainsbourg and electronic postmodernism of Brian Eno as he does to the avant-garde wit and pop obsessions of artists like Duchamp and Warhol, inspiring and irritating legions of people along the way.
Adopting the name Momus from the Greek god ousted from the heavens for his ridicule of Zeus, Currie first got his start singing in the Happy Family in the early '80s. He landed on England's Creation label in the mid-'80s, putting out sardonic chamber/ synth pop concept albums like 1988's Tender Pervert and the Gainsbourg-dedicated Hippopotamomus in 1991. The albums were praised artistically but came under fire by the tabloid-obsessed British press because of overt sexual content, and his marriage to his then-underage girlfriend.
In the mid-'90s, Currie pushed into an even wider range of experimental indie and electronic pop music as well as a Japan-fetish phase, finding success in Tokyo's Shibuya-kei hipster scene collaborating with artists like the Pizzicato Five and Cornelius, as well as writing a string of hit songs for Japanese cutesy-pop sensation Kahimi Karie.
1998's Little Red Songbook delved into his classical/futurist bent, a self-proclaimed "analog baroque" style. The album explored electronic gadgetry, analog keyboards, and Munchausenesque themes, complete with instrumental karaoke tracks for a Momus parody contest.
Currie's latest effort, 2003's Oskar Tennis Champion, is yet another continuation of his collective themes, complete with songs like "My Sperm Is Not Your Enemy," and "Is It Because I Am a Pirate?"
Currie notes, "I think the dialogue between 'the eternal verities of the human heart' and 'the latest unprecedented techniques of cutting-edge technology' has always been at the heart of pop music. I've been very inspired by the way the Japanese combine a somewhat medieval lifestyle with futuristic gadgets and cityscapes, and I try to do something similar with my music. It's futuristic Shakespeare! Twenty-first-century vaudeville! Concrete variety! A playground for Kabuki robots!"
People seem to be either completely starry-eyed for Currie's tongue-in-cheek pastiche or hellbent on burning him at the stake, which to me means a job well done. At the end of our conversation, Currie left me with the following quote from Cardinal Newman as inspiration: "All representations, whether accurate or not, are inherently pleasurable."