Rock: Going ape for a (zygotic) Mynci

First it was Britpop, now it's Welshpop. Ben Thompson meets the leading lights of a new revolution
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
It seems a cruel twist of fate that the most charming and original pop group in Britain today should be saddled with a name like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Then again, no one held a gun to their heads. And the leap of faith required to enunciate GZM - plain, pronounceable old Gorky's to their burgeoning legion of admirers - is the first step into a world where just about anything is possible: a world where five Welsh people in their early twenties can sing a song about olde-English hippie legend Kevin Ayers and it will become a big hit with teenage girls in Japan.

The band formed while still at school in Pembrokeshire; their first album, Patio - Gorky's Zygotic Mynci 1991-93, features some songs in which their singer's voice has not yet broken (there's also a cameo appearance from the guitarist's mother, who bursts into a front-room recording session to complain about the noise). Gorky's second and third LPs, 1994's Tatay and last year's Bwyd Time, found them refining their own distinct brand of pastoral mayhem - a unique and intoxicating hybrid of pop, punk, folk and psychedelia - to ever-higher levels of sophistication. They finally signed to a major label (Fontana) earlier this year, and are now poised to retune the mind-sets of a generation.

Islington's Hope and Anchor - notorious former home of pub rock, ska and the Stranglers - has seen a fair amount of uninhibited behaviour in its time, but nothing quite like what went on there a couple of Mondays ago. Bands were playing (an impressive line-up of new talent, signed to the industrious Cardiff-based Ankst label, which has released all Gorky's records to date, and continues to manage them) but all eyes were not on the stage. They were on one man - Gorky's fresh-faced singer and keyboard dynamo Euros Childs - the life and soul of an evening more akin to an Arcadian idyll than the usual dour ritual of metropolitan gig-going. Euros danced the fox-trot with both men and women. He kissed people - some of whom he knew before, some of whom he'd only just met - and at one point was observed gracing the cheek of a partial acquaintance, who had just made the fatal mistake of buying him a drink, with an unashamedly sensual caress.

A couple of days later, a sober, still genial but noticeably less tactile Childs sits in a west-London hotel lobby surrounded by suitcases. Gorky's are off back to their north-Wales studio today, bags laden with Yeltsin dolls and furry hats after a press trip to Moscow. They went in search of Gorky Park (this is the kind of thing you have to do to keep Melody Maker photographers happy these days) but all the signs were in Russian.

On the surface, this is a nice demonstration of the language barrier Gorky's must vault if they are ever to be more than just a great cult band. Singing in both Welsh and English, to reflect a bilingual up-bringing, attracts the wrath of bigots on both sides of the fence: as regards Welsh cultural nationalism, Gorky's adopt the Martin Luther King stance, which is always perilous. But they're right to be contemptuous of those who insist they should only sing in English. After all, as Euros points out: "No one would dare say that if we were African."

There are two reasons why the language debate is actually something of a red herring. First, those songs Gorky's do sing in Welsh tend to come with partial explanations in the sleeve-notes - "Idea nicked from a kids' book", "Forty- to 50-year-old holidays in Monte Carlo: meets women of dreams" - that render them utterly intriguing. Secondly, the ones they sing in English are so bizarre that the notion of a common language is largely academic. Witness "Heart of Kentucky", which starts off as straight-ahead country pastiche and culminates with a gang of old women beating up Kraftwerk. Witness also "The Game of Eyes", which ties up two decades of ersatz psychedelia in a knotted handkerchief and throws them into a lake of burning custard.

The most remarkable thing about Gorky's is that, strange as they undoubtedly are (and it's hard to think of another band that could suggest both The Fall in 1978 and The Grateful Dead at the Pyramids in the space of the same song), they are hugely accessible. Just when all the best tunes seem to have been written, along comes a band with the key to a secret compartment full of melodies no one has heard before. "Patio Song", Gorky's forthcoming Fontana debut single, is a case in point. The sound of a lovesick Euros crooning: "And if you really want to kiss her, just go right up and tell her" banishes all thought of that infernal "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in the blink of an ear.

With the British pop-music industry in its current enlightened state, there's no reason why "Patio Song" shouldn't be a massive hit. All it needs is for a few specific individuals (Chris Evans, Top of the Pops producer Ric Blaxill) to show a bit of imagination and Gorky's will be up where they belong with Underworld, Baby Bird and the like. With Mark Radcliffe having hijacked the Radio 1 breakfast show to play "Patio Song" every morning last week, the bandwagon is already rolling.

Back in the hotel lobby, when the rest of the band come down to join wildman Euros, it's immediately clear just what great pop stars they would make. The five of them are utterly free of the competitive enmities that usually prevail in gatherings of three or more musicians and the geniality levels are right off the scale. Does the amorous tone of "Patio Song" explain Euros's behaviour the other night? "Sort of," observes grinning bass-player Richard James, "but the lyrics should be: 'If you really want to kiss her/him/his dog'."

! 'Patio Song' (Fontana, single) is released on 28 Oct. Gorky's Zygotic Mynci: Bristol Fleece & Firkin (0117 927 7150), 31 Oct; then touring to 8 Nov.

Comments