Men On The Border: full of guitars and no dust...

alien coaster from DSOTM
Alien coaster, from The Dark Side of the Moon Immersion set.

Summer time has come and this means it is time to take the plastic chairs and table into the garden and have an afternoon drink. The main problem always is: where are the coasters to put the glasses on? Surely you didn't pay 120 Euros for a Dark Side of the Moon Immersion box set to ruin its cheap (but expensive) content by putting a glass of Mojito on top of those exclusive carton collector's coasters, did you?

Thank god there is Mojo's Return to the Dark Side of The Moon - Wish You Were Here Again from a couple of months ago. I you have ever listened to it then you certainly would wish you were over there, praising that nobody can hear crap in a vacuum. My Wall Re-Built albums are still shrink-wrapped and will probably stay like that until eternity or till I finally have the nerve to make the final cut.

The Madcap Laughs Again treatment from 2010 was slightly better, probably because nobody tried to make too much of a fool out of the mad cat, but nevertheless I only gave the album a 4 out of 10 score. It does contain some interesting versions though, like Marc Almond's Late Night that has grown on me like a wart on a witches nose.

But for most of those covermount disks the only slightly ecological way to give them a purpose in life is to recycle them as beverage coasters. By the way, Mojo should realize that these CDs can be counter-productive as well. A while ago I saw the issue with Pet Sounds Revisited and because I didn't want to spoil my good mood I simply turned my back, deciding not to buy it. No way I was going to listen to the massacre of one of the finest albums in the world.

This just to say I am slightly grumpy when it comes to these tribute albums. But sometimes there are exceptions, like...

Men On The Border
Men On The Border.

Men On The Border

Swedish Men On The Border, so learns us the blurb, started as a project inspired by the music and art of Roger Keith ”Syd” Barrett. The power duo consists of Göran Nyström and Phil Etheridge and the result is Shine!, a CD of interpretations of songs by Syd Barrett.

And what interpretations they are, rather than dumbfoundedly mimicking Roger Keith they flavour their interpretations with power chords, contemporary sounds, odd humour and slightly hidden musical references.

I have a soft spot for track number 5 that starts as a Joy Division, Gary Numan or Blur inspired rendition of No Man's Land, seamlessly sliding into Golden Hair and retreating to No Man's Land again. The track is dark, a bit industrial with screaming guitars and probably a signature track for what Men On The Border really stand for. Göran Nyström:

(I'm) quite happy with it. As black as it should be. And yet with a little golden shimmer deep inside.
Shine!, art by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson
Shine! cover by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson.

The cool thing is that MOTB give an odd, unexpected, turn to the classics we know so well. Wined And Dined makes you think that the song will dive into Irish jig territory but the guitar that follows (not that far from Gilmour’s Raise My Rent, if you ask me) brings back happy memories from the music I liked in the seventies (those heavenly oohs and aaahs), ending with a Beatlesque streak. Göran Nyström:

I want to do this with great respect, yet not ending up imitating Syd and his weaknesses at the time. I always felt uncomfortable with cover artists trying to be the sick and poor Syd. I think his songs should shine.

Listening to Gigolo Aunt, that I have always found a bit simple as a song, it comes to me that some of the influences of MOTB lay in the pub-rock from Graham Parker & The Rumour, Rockpile (with Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds) and the cruelly under-appreciated The Motors (their Airport still is in my all times Top-20).

Opel, here renamed as Opal which is probably more correct, has an intro reminding me of a hungry Jaws swimming towards some EMI sales representatives who immediately devour the poor animal. First its intro made me think of an Emerson, Lake and Palmer thing... but at second thought some classic Deep Purple may be a bit closer to it. Anyway it is classic stuff. The song has glimpses of an all female string quartet, playing in the nude, but probably my imagination is having a go at me now.

Long Gone starts – literally - with an interstellar joke before jumping into Mark Bolan or David Bowie cockney territory , it's a totally loony, but irresistible version (and it has a fine moog-a-like outro as well).

Gigolo Aunt by JenniFire
Gigolo Aunt by JenniFire.

What did I forget so far:
Octopus, not as erratic as the original and larded with slight psychedelic effects...
Dark Globe, loving the crack in Göran's voice at the 'wouldn't you miss me at all' bit...,
No Good Trying, a straight forward rocky rendition with lots of reverb, oohs, aahs and nananananas...
Feel, well over seven minutes it starts with a slightly Floydian ambient intro and it further meanders into a pastoral Grantchester Meadows classic but at the four minutes mark a slightly brilliant Narrow Way guitar solo takes over...

Late Night must be one of the most beautiful songs that Syd Barrett ever wrote and Men On The Border also get this one right. Love, peace and understanding are omnipresent (not only on this track, but on the whole album) and, frankly, this is a quite moving version.

You may have deducted by now that the album is excellent and then we haven't said a word about the art department yet, one of the extra reasons you should buy this album for.

The cover art has been made by Kajsa-Tuva Henriksson and the booklet illustrates every song with a painting from Jennifer D'Andrea's (aka JenniFire) I.N.Spired series. Buying the CD will also financially help the Cambridge based Squeaky Gate organisation.

Men On The Border haven't set up a web-shop for their album yet, but you would be more than obliged to mail them at info@menontheborder.com and ask for a copy.

And if the above review didn't convince you, you can listen and watch their songs on the Men On The Border Sound & Vision pages (have a go at Feel with more intriguing art work from JenniFire).

Those Swedish surely have something I can't explain.

Many thanks to: Göran Nyström, Phil Etheridge & JenniFire.