Jonathan Meades – Pedigree Mongrel

jonathan_meades

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

There may be stranger records which have been made out there but until I come across them, this one takes the cake. A second collaboration between Mordant Music and Test Centre, ‘Pedigree Mongrel’ features the written work of one Jonathan Meades taking center stage. Now if you haven’t heard of this fellow don’t be alarmed, you are far from alone in this. How this pairing was chosen will remain a mystery but what they’ve accomplished certainly will be celebrated in the annals of audio deviancy for quite some time to come.

To begin with there are the particulars: four movements. One of which is a caustically poignant piece about the lives of French Jews during the dark days of the last world war. The main character is particularly stymied by his mother’s refusal to see their predicament for what it is. She agonizes over indigenous people which prompts the acrid retort: what does indigenous mean? Will five and a half centuries do. Further revelations about his father’s profession and the repugnant thanks he is given for it permeate this entry; it all finally culminates with our protagonist having had enough of turning the other cheek… he casually selects an arab prostitute to lose his virginity through, only his climax comes in the form of lead. “It was quite an interesting thing, watching her go from life to death”. Afterwards, he celebrates with a fine dessert as such actions demand the best.

“When the French have no one else to turn against, they turn against themselves…” this line alone speaks volumes about the betrayals, brutality and down bestial treatment of those who fell afoul of that disgusting puppet government. Madness comes in many forms and perhaps this one is an example of it at it’s worst. A particularly timely entry given the recent successes of the national front…it would seem old habits die hard.

To follow it up, Meades unleashes a vitriolic tirade against the debacle of London’s 2012 Olympics. Deriding the entire affair as little more than a celebratory fiscal orgy for those in the know, other suggestions for what should have been done are proffered not the least of which is a concluding meditation on the wonders of decay. The specialization of organic life gets a fine going over with Jonathan wistfully mentioning how anyone who has seen rotten meat can appreciate the transitory states which matter goes through. ‘Long life to the fungi’ could well have been the title for this composition.

The second side is primarily concerned with the life events and general methodology of a character grimier than anything Dickens could have opined about. This one opens up the seedier, unkempt and unapologetic underbelly of English society to devastating effect. Is who he’s writing about real or is it all just a composite of former stars ground up by the grist-mill of fame and public opinion… even if it’s all just his imagination you can’t help but feel for the poor devil as he lowers his comedic skills to the basest of levels to get that all important laugh. Who knew Vegas’ seamier side had a British counterpart; broken old men who soldier on in the face of indifference and changing social mores. Johnny Walker has been the downfall of many but the bottoming out our fading stand up endures is gut wrenching.

No such fate befalls Ol’ Man Mordant however. I don’t know who interviewed him, perhaps it’s better that way but he’s a character. Vibrant, colorful and enduring. When he talks about things in his past your ears are glued to the player, never mind what magnificent tailored music his son The Baron composes all across ‘Pedigree Mongrel’. His style has become more and more understated to the point that you have to go through it all repeatedly to pick out the little flourishes and bits of sound he’s conjured. It is almost as though he’s underlining certain passages on here and punctuating individual words when the fancy strikes him. Powerful in it’s restraint and undeniable in it’s dynamic effect, Mordant’s contributions are enduring, elegant and yes, ethereal. I only hope we get some more Travelogues eventually; there’s no re-cycling going on here either.This is an all new score he’s fashioned on gorgeously pressed vinyl, complete with sleeve art that will fascinate you endlessly.

Jonathan MeadesPedigree Mongrel
Test Centre, TC-LP-004
LP/Digital 2015

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