Album: Trashmonk

Mona Lisa Overdrive, Poptones
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The Independent Culture

Nick Laird-Clowes has led a chequered existence on the fringes of pop ever since his epiphanic experience as a 13-year-old runaway at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival. Numbering the likes of John Lennon, Paul Simon and Dave Gilmour among his acquaintances, the youthful, globe-trotting hippie went on to front several bands through the following decades, many – like his most famous outfit, Dream Academy – reflecting the psychedelic, soft-rock style of influences like Nick Drake, John Martyn, Brian Wilson and Love. Trashmonk, his latest nom de disque, is no different: Mona Lisa Overdrive is full of lovely Pink Floyd-ian pastorale and contemplative folk-rock pieces, some whipped into churning, Can-like grooves by the application of ethnic percussion loops and ambient recordings made by Laird-Clowes on trips to places like Nepal and Morocco. Blessed with a nice line in acid opening couplets ("You remind me of a girl I used to know/ But she was sweet and kind") Trashmonk deals frankly with his own ambitions, addictions and illusions in songs like "High Times" and the contemptuous "Dying Day", reflecting on the inevitable drift of affections and allegiances in "All Change", and acknowledging the need to constantly replenish oneself in "N.W.O. (New World Order)". Warm and welcoming, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste, this is a fascinating portrait of a questing spirit still sparking creatively (and still believing), despite a string of setbacks.