'Seventies synth-pop versions of college-rock faves and grunge's greatest hits, transforming the angst of a generation into the kind of thing you'd hear at a party thrown by Cadbury's Smash aliens'

The Moog Cookbook The Moog Cookbook Restless 72914-2
It's a pretty poor week when the most enjoyable release is a novelty album, but there's such a fund of genuine good feeling in The Moog Cookbook that it wins out easily. After all, it's not every day that Americans deal successfully in irony, is it?

The brainchild of Jellyfish's Roger Manning and Brian Kehew (going under the evocative Euro-electro guises of Meco Eno and Uli Nomi), The Moog Cookbook offers Seventies synth-pop versions of college-rock faves and grunge's greatest hits, transforming the angst of a generation into the kind of thing you'd hear at a party thrown by Cadbury's Smash aliens. Thus is the apocalyptic grunge-pomp of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" turned into jolly hum-along bleeps, and Pearl Jam's tortuous "Evenflow" into a first cousin of the seminal "Popcorn". Or, conversely, Weezer's oddball "Buddy Holly" prefaced by a doomy, portentous intro of deep synth swells, from which the toytown melody emerges like a puppet clown dancing the polka.

It's at once funnier and more listenable than the Mike Flowers Pops album, involving a gentle ironic ribbing rather than a full-blown exercise in bad taste, the duo's space-helmets and tinfoil jumpsuits notwithstanding. And sometimes, it can be cruelly revealing of a track's clay feet, as when the bogus riff-power of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" is accurately fingered with weedy buzzing synth and clip-clop percussion, or Neil Young's anthemic "Rockin' in the Free World" turned into a squeaking, Disneyfied cartoon of its self. It's no easy joke, either, as each track's instrumental line-up shows: in order to convey Young's typically aberrant guitar solos on the latter, the Cookbook duo needed the accumulated artillery of a GR77 Guitar Synth, an Ibanez Flying Pan, an ElectroHarmonix Microsynth, an MXR Pitch Transposer and a Minimoog. A guitar would certainly have been simpler, but comedy is always more complex than its opposite, gravity.

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