Autre Monde: The Imaginary Museum review – slick and thrillingly weird pop

Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 07:00

   
 

Album:
The Imaginary Museum

Artist:
Autre Monde

Label:
Strange Brew Records

Genre:
Alternative

They are technically a “supergroup”, but none of Autre Monde’s members are household names – not yet, at least. The four-piece are comprised of members of bands (Ginnels, Land Lovers, No Monster Club and Paddy Hanna’s solo oeuvre) that were housed under the now-defunct DIY indie collective Popical Island.

As the underdogs of Dublin’s music scene for six or seven years, they and acts like them made a modest but charismatic impact that might yet be reappraised and appreciated accordingly in years to come.

Until then, there’s Autre Monde. Formed around the time Popical Island breathed its last in 2016, the band’s early releases demonstrated a willingness to throw everything at a wall to see what stuck. The result was an enjoyably eccentric if somewhat indecisive hodge-podge, but their debut album is much more sure-footed.

Autre Monde - Fever in May

The band’s piece de resistance is Fever in May, a song that has been picked up by  Audi  Ireland to soundtrack a TV ad

With Girl Band guitarist Daniel Fox behind the production desk, it’s safe to say that The Imaginary Museum is an unorthodox record. Their organising principle was to make an album that sounded like it was “by a band who were playing esoteric post-punk in 1979, but who are now transplanted to 1986 – where a hit is demanded”. That may sound dangerously corny (and be warned: there is a sax solo at one point) but generally this is carefully cultivated experiment in pop music.

Frontman Paddy Hanna’s offbeat, theatrical warble is undoubtedly a major selling point, as heard on the poppy new wave bounce of On the Record, the synth-led Roxy Music-esque schmooze of The Operator, or the crashing, quirky indiepop of Brain upon Your Pillow. Elsewhere, Padraig Cooney’s turn on post-break-up song Lesser Than You – one of several songs that superbly utilises the grimy buzz of a Moog synthesiser to add atmosphere and texture – is excellent, as is Three Mandolins’ strange, snaky groove.

The band’s piece de resistance, however, is Fever in May – a song that has already been picked up by Audi Ireland to soundtrack a TV ad, and probably the only song with an opening couplet such as “I’ve got a dog, he pisses/ He was born in the pit of my stomach” to advertise a major car brand. Its icy cool ping and groove sounds like Kraftwerk as recorded at a Butlin’s Holiday Camp.

On paper, The Imaginary Museum really shouldn’t work, but somehow these nine disparate tracks are pulled together in a cohesive and efficient manner. With bags of personality, plenty of melodic left-turns and an innate sense of style that could only come via their collective experience, it’s a sophisticated, slick, thrillingly weird record.