Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Innovation In The Trade by Pulco

Innovation In The Trade cover art

Ash Cooke (a.k.a. Pulco) describes his new album, Innovation In The Trade, as an effort to "immerse myself in a growing love of all things Dada...reject reason...prize nonsense, irrationality and intuition."

If you're unfamiliar with Dadaism and its ideas, this song is as good an introduction as any.

All of which sounds like great fun, but it does make my task as a reviewer rather tricky - how can one find meaning in deliberate nonsense? Short of producing an equally surreal, equally Dadaist write-up, how might I shed light on an album that goes out of its way to avert all reason and logic?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'm going to give it a try. You see, amid all of this album's seemingly disparate weirdness lies a common theme: the joy of trying something new. My personal highlight, A Cruel Heart Beats Like a Bird, implores you to "imagine your next hangover" and "think about what you're doing" when brushing your teeth; Open Your Wallets suggests that you, um, open your wallet, inviting passers-by to help themselves to its contents.

The overall message appears to be, quite simply, 'do something different', and it's advice that Pulco himself has happily taken; he leads the way quite admirably, tossing all sorts of different sounds and words and ideas into his musical melting pot. As Open Your Wallets demonstrates, Ash Cooke's default position is sat on the shoegazier end of Britpop, his legs swinging psychedelically over the side; other songs, though, charge outward into the unknown, and these are the songs that stay with you when the album is over.

Sludge, for example, sounds unhingedly like The Fall, as do several other tracks. Graham and Stan & The Bike revisit the spoken word stuff that Cooke played with on last year's Poundstore Riot album. A Man Shouts, Fan Heater and End Credits sound positively Pythonesque - I can't be the only one picturing Terry Jones's nude organist tinkling away at the vibraphone on the album's closing track:

There's no denying that this a strange, experimental album, but unlike some experimental albums, it doesn't take itself too seriously. Cooke is experimenting for your enjoyment, not your discomfort, and even IITT's most confrontational moments will put a smile on your face.

Innovation In The Trade is available from Pulco's Bandcamp page. It's a pay-what-you-wanter, so even if you're strapped for cash, I'd heartily recommend that you head over and give it a try. Even if you don't like it, at least it's something different!

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