Rotifer, fronted by Robert Rotifer the Austrian born musician, artist, broadcaster and writer, may just be the most familiar band you’ve never heard of.
Now a trio, with Darren Hayman on bass and former Death in Vegas man Ian Button on drums, this latest album is full of recognisable musical influences, mainly from the 60s and 70s.
It is perhaps no wonder Rotifer has become one of the first acts to be signed to AED, the label created by Edwyn Collins whose career has been formed through a love of those decades.
Part Stones, part Kinks, part Bowie and even part Neil Innes in places this sixth album, and the first to get a UK release by Rotifer, focuses largely on the young Robert’s journey from Austria as a schoolboy to stay with a hosting couple in Canvey Island during the summer of 1982.
The album, produced by Wreckless Eric in his studio in France, is full of references to English culture, mostly seen through the eyes of a child from Austria, from run down seaside towns and low quality 1980s English television to his less than enthusiastic hosting couple, who spent most of the time sunbathing in their suburban garden surrounded by the stench of creosote stained fences and sheds.
It’s a nostalgic concept that works well, especially as years later Rotifer made Kent, the county located over the other side of the Thames estuary his home. Among my highlights is the album’s centrepiece Canvey Island, full of lovely turns of phrases such as “white sock summer”.
Another is the first track I heard, Aberdeen Marine Lab, which was released on Youtube earlier this year. It’s my favourite on the album. Perfect pop.
Mr Extra Item Seat, like a mash up of Neil Innes and the Kinks, is another great track and riff of the album belongs to Ernst Jandell at The Albert Hall. The Kinks link is unsurprising given one of the young Robert’s highlights of his stay was experiencing the mod revival of the time. There’s also a hint of Elvis Costello on Ernst Jandell at The Albert Hall, also unsurprising as he was no doubt a familiar voice on radio at the time of Robert’s visit.
The album’s slow track, Art for the Spare Room, is perhaps the only one I’ve yet to warm to, although I concede it provides a necessary change of pace to the smart riffs and jangly pop of the rest of the album. I’m sure I’ll get there though.
While plundering the music of the 60s and 70s for influence can often go wrong (see Oasis) Rotifer’s genuine fondness for the music and culture of the country he now calls home gives this album a warmth and honesty that other plunderers can only dream of.
By Joe Lepper