AMG: Denim - Novelty Rock

Sounds about right, that title. Quite why this exists in the first place is a good question worth asking Denim weren't exactly chart-busting types, so getting EMI to release a truly jumbled collection of singles, outtakes, B-sides, and other such stuff must have involved one heck of a sales pitch. Nothing about this quick release of a dozen tracks will change anyone's mind about Denim if one thought Lawrence Hayward had gone out of his mind by switching to this after ending Felt, feelings won't change in the slightest. As bizarrely styled and bemusing '70s nostalgia in the most MOR of ways, though, it's a weirdly charming effort. Never bothering to hide the borrowings and homages at any point, as on the group's two full albums, it's almost the equivalent of a U.K. KTEL "Super Explosive Hits of the Seventies" compilation, except just by one band. The fact that "On a Chicory Tip" consists solely of the memorably nagging keyboard loop from said outfit's early-in-the-decade smash "Son of My Father," with a few extra tweaks and the title repeated over and over, is explanation enough. The cover of the Euro-disco outfit Space's "Running in the City" is even more inspired clean, clinical, and playful all at once. Add in such things as a light lounge version of the theme song to the weedy '70s Britcom Robin's Nest, more squelchy keyboards, and old drum machines than could ever be imagined being under one roof, and it's Denim in a nutshell. Hayward's singing is nicely smooth throughout, just what's needed, and everything does have instant pop hooks aplenty, but mainstream/AM radiophobes will have a fit. One song may be called "Internet Curtains" (with a not-bad dramatic swell to it, like a cheap recording of a Pulp track), with its reference to influential '90s DJ Chris Evans, though by any other measure the shag rugs are back in full action. Ned Raggett