The Vichy Government – Carrion Camping
‘Carrion Camping’. It is extremely apt that The Vichy Government’s pseudo-album should take its name from a turgid, banal farce which has attained an inexplicably devout, if miniscule, following in certain quarters.
Vichy vocalist Jamie Manners has publicly spoken of this record as being ‘nothing less than a masterpiece’. As the twelve assembled dirges steadily drain away the listener’s will to live, one feels that Manners’ sanity ought to be called into question. If this constitutes a ‘masterpiece’ for Manners, what, one wonders, would he consider the greatest pop artefact of the past half-century? Novelty Rock by Denim?
The opening song, I Control Discourse, presents a sorry and deranged fantasy in which The Vichy Government claim to exercise some sort of monopoly, and by the end of the song have gone on to assert their own divinity. Doubtless Andrew Chilton would describe his ramshackle contribution as ‘melodic’, but to these ears it resembles nothing more than a blaring car alarm, forcing you out of bed at 7am.
By track two, Manners is already showing signs of desperation. Having failed to entertain, he attempts to confuse by throwing in obtuse references to clearly fictitious characters (who is Michael Stone and why would he get into the Louvre?). There follows an ill-considered vindication of Saddam Hussein’s barbaric regime, compared favourably to the repellent Caliban from Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. Did they even pass their GCSE in English? Arranged Marriages and Rivers Of Your Blood are stupefying in their ignorance and barefaced prejudice: ‘Niggers don’t belong in this land/Except for Sol Campbell, he’s okay/Faggots have no place in this land/Except for lesbians, they’re okay’. Portmeirion is arrant nonsense.
The album is unforgivingly leaden throughout, never offering any light or shade, any contrast to the one-note, quasi-political dementia of Manners. As Chilton produces the same cheap and nasty squeaks from his inadequate Fisher Price synth, one’s brain dreams of hearing something with imagination, with anything other than this moribund apathy; something original, like the svelte vignettes of Romeo Pizza Delivery.
The only track here to show any kind of promise is in fact The Protestant Work Ethic I. Halfway through the album, Manners is (sensibly) silenced; likewise the ear-splitting clatter of the repetitive programmed drum patterns. What remains may be a fifth-rate attempt to emulate the ambient soundscapes of Moby, but it’s still the best thing here by a country mile. If only it were drawn out for the remainder of side two.
Instead, like a boot crushing the human face for eternity, Secretarial Elite kicks in, with the irritation factor of Chilton’s inane cartoon riffs turned up to 11. It hits us all the harder for coming after a moment of respite, and is the first of three tracks in which The Vichy Government display a fear and hatred of women that borders on sociopathy. Young Girl, a bloated hymn to paedophilia, might sicken if one’s patience had not expired long before. A cursory listen to any of the golden, flower-power pop of the late 60s would prove that the love song not need be so banal and cynical. But alas, Vichy’s appreciation of the pop canon’s varied riches barely makes it past the first Soft Cell album.
The final indignity, Death On The Instalment-Plan, cannot come too soon. Whereas any musician with vision would end on a grandiose summation of the record’s themes, like Strangelove’s heartbreaking ‘The Sea Of Black’, Jamie Manners settles for a scuffle in a job centre (surely his natural habitat) and signs off with a puerile jibe against Dickon Edwards, lead singer of Livejournal and his aesthetic and artistic superior in every respect. In fact, the only thing to be said for this wretched piece of plastic is that it can make the passing of 31 minutes seem like 31 years.