Introducing Gamoid’s new Titanic Concept Album: And the Band Played On

The NME nearly imploded with Howl Encry’s August 2011 announcement (the equivalent to 1600psi acting on consciousness) that Gamoid, self-proclaimed “note sculptors”, were to record the ultimate concept album; a musical voyage on the Titanic, up to and including the disaster, commemorating the North Atlantic unpleasantness.

Despite pleas from Guggenheim’s Balls: The Official Titanic Society to abort, Encry and bandmates Merrel Mung, Lickerty Split and Soda Pop flew to Belfast to lay it down in two days within a makeshift tent erected around the dry dock originally built to accommodate the liner at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard.

Pitchfork called it “grotesque”, Fella Pet, writing in The Times, noted “that even by the standards of this outfit, who let’s not forget put a bloody placenta on the cover of their debut album (2005’s Placenta and Chips), this is a new low”. Most were united in the belief that the ‘moid were incapable of the sensitivity required in marking the anniversary. Were they right? Find out now with this exclusive first review.

And the Band Played On Track Listing:

1. Slag Infused Rivets
2. Tossin’ over the side
3. When I get to New York…
4. That third class boy stole my pocket watch!
5. Italians and Irish get the slap-a-round (with relish)
6. Captain Smith’s Beard of Secrets
7. Dead Calm (but man is it cold)
8. Dirty ice
9. The Inedible Molly Brown
10. We’re going down by the head
11. Ovaries and bastards first!
12. Rearrangin’ the deckchairs
13. John Carpenter’s Lifeboat 13

I don’t know what I was expecting, solemn strings, panpipes, some melancholic trumpet perhaps? Certainly not a pulsing electro-beat coupled with a looped sample of a metal rivet being hammered into a deckplate. This is the opening of Slag Infused Rivets, a none too subtle dig at the shoddy workmanship thought (by Gamoid at least) to have guaranteed the ship’s demise. As ever it’s lyrical nirvana from Encry, “second grade iron, filthy old slag, a crease in my shirt, an AIDS test in my bag”. Then he gets to the ship: “the biggest girl I’ve ever seen, shiny and new, real pristine, even the funnels are lovely and clean.”

Next the band’s on the water and in a playful mood. Tossin’ over the side describes a group with some downtime on the greatest ship in the world (with probably the worst acoustics ever recorded). Encry calls it the dry dock sound. The first lines tell the tale: “Bestriding the boat deck, airing the gent, flopped over the railing, the rest was plain sailing.”

You’re barely over that when Elton John’s prima donna piano turns up on When I get to New York…, the band’s aside on the aspirations and hopes of those passengers expecting a new life in America. “I’m gonna buy me a gun, start me a racket, terrify the locals, earn me a packet” and then, in an increasingly shrill second verse, “a hot dog with onions, a two dollar whore, a show on Broadway, a house with a door.”

The voyage is in full swing when Encry is the victim of crime in That third class boy stole my pocket watch! It’s a charmless ditty, punctuated by the whine from what sounds like a mangled cello. In fact this may not be far from the truth. The sleeve notes reveal that Gamoid broke all their instruments, as though “we’d pulled them from the ocean floor”. There’s real anger in Encry’s voice as he sings, “this filthy tyke sauntered up to my side, his hand in my waistcoat, rummaging inside”.

If that’s a surprise, so too is the continuation of the story in Italians and Irish get the slap-a-round (with relish) in which Encry goes below decks to take revenge on emigrant 3rd class passengers. As the theft is total fantasy it’s a shock to hear the singer go at the passengers with such venom; “I pounded their faces, they prayed it would pass, but there’s no stealing, from the first of first class.”

Sadly the next three songs smack of filler; Captain Smith’s Beard of Secrets is an odd ELO-style whimsical piece, “he plucked the lies from that forest of white twine”; Dead Calm (but man it is Cold) sounds like the shipping forecast set to the sedate pluck of Mung’s guitar – “thirty degrees, no wind, no moon, not a single fuckin’ wave”, and Dirty Ice signals the berg’s arrival with alarm but little in the way of lyrical invention; “right ahead, it’s right ahead, turn this bastard, else we’re dead.”

The most controversial section of this album was always going to be the sinking and the band don’t disappoint. With the Titanic listing like a sad face and the sound of panic – screaming, shouting, Kenneth Williams – now the backing track, Encry encounters Margaret “Molly” Brown and has what he tells us is a “pang of panic hunger”. The portly socialite is eyed for eating. The Inedible Molly Brown begins, “I took a bite from those spilt breasts, I lapped it up, though she did protest”. Then a fight ensues. “She grabbed my throat, my teeth lost their purchase, I lunged for the meat but the effort was worthless.”

Chaos reigns in We’re going down by the head, forcing the band to consider their options; “we’ll bind the guitars, make a new raft, but we’ll lose all the drums, and I’ll lose my new scarf.” Ovaries and bastards first! questions the infamous women and children policy; “the good looking couples, the wits and the skilled, ain’t getting in no lifeboat, they’re gonna get killed.” Then, the final plunge; Rearrangin’ the Deckchairs finds a philosophical Gamoid stuck on the ship with no means of escape. “The ship’s in darkness, but for me there’s no grief, fate has caught up with that pocket watch thief.”

Encry and chums manage to swim out to a lifeboat for the final song, John Carpenter’s Lifeboat 13, in which the group face several torturous hours on the ocean with a disparate band of survivors. The ordeal isn’t over however, as Encry imagines his microcosm of civilisation breaking down in that tiny boat. It’s a powerful portrait of morality buckling like the great ship’s hull; “shunting and slashing, screaming and worse, the Countess berates me, ‘have you got my purse?!’”.

Poignant stuff but is this an appropriate way to remember the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster? Encry meets the question head on in his sleeve note introduction: “yes”. Anyone going to argue?

If you hated this why not try…? Music Review: Gamoid- Tosspiece Theatre

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 23:06  Leave a Comment  
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