Album: Relaxed Muscle

A Heavy Night with... , Rough Trade
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The Independent Culture

"The lineage of Doncaster talent," claims the press release, "reads like a roll call of the great and the good: Honky, Bitter Suite, and now Relaxed Muscle." And with such high standards to live up to, it's hardly surprising that veteran Muscle mainman Darren Spooner has waited so long before releasing this debut album. In another life, Spooner is better known as Jarvis Cocker, here working with electronics whizz and fellow Sheffielder Jason Buckle. Together, they've created a tongue-in-cheek celebration of South Yorkshire's late-Seventies electro-pop heritage, with "Beastmaster" a lolloping Gary Glitter-meets-The-Human-League electro-stomp, and "Rod of Iron" little more than a blatant retread of Cabaret Voltaire's "Nag Nag Nag". Buckle keeps it simple, using the most primitive of drum-machine beats, and rarely employing two chord-changes where one would suffice, while Jarvis - sorry, Darren - essays a perverse line in misogynist machismo, equine sexual symbolism and booze-fuelled rancour. It's all quite a chuckle, until the closing stages, where a darker mood overtakes the broken-family portrait "Mary". "Mary, I just called to tell you that both our children are on drugs," sings Spooner, pivoting expertly on the cusp of tragedy and comedy as he reveals how he was "offered outside" by his son.