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Mondo Jet Set
Provincial Drama Club
CD on Pink Hedgehog
Cat No: B00AOD154S , Stk Ref 79763

Released on: 03 February 2013

Magazine Review
Mark Robins and James Laming have spent more than a decade perfecting their own variations on classic songwriting, first as Marlowe and now as Mondo Jet Set. With their fourth album as Mondo Jet Set, they may have cracked it. During a freewheeling romp through 23 short songs (almost all failing to get past the three minute barrier), 'Provincial Drama Club' takes us on a guided tour of the late twentieth century’s most idiosyncratic pop music.

There are nods to Squeeze, the Kinks, XTC and Elvis Costello, but also to the absurdist wit of Half Man Half Biscuit, the wistful nostalgia of Belle and Sebastian, the shaggy summer folk-pop of Dodgy and the kitchen sink romanticism of Rialto. All of this is arranged with the “what the hell, give it a try” playfulness of Paul McCartney, and set to choruses that Ian Broudie would kill for.

Though many of the songs are gone in less than a minute, there are plenty of gems. A medley, 'John Before The Fire/Alice', features tunes from both songwriters, and is an affectionate pastiche of first Belle and Sebastian and then briefly the Pet Shop Boys. 'Cadaver In Motion' takes us into an eerie blend of funk-rock and jazz, part-Steely Dan and part Imperial Bedroom-era Elvis Costello. 'Pink Strawberry Sun' successfully recreates the childish psychedelica of the mid-60s, but it backs it up with a blissful pop melody – perhaps the album’s most catchy song. This is the one you’d pick to have played on the radio.

That said, the pleasure in ‘Provincial Drama Club’ comes less from individual songs and more from the constant flurry of ideas, with songs often merging into one. If you were being picky, you’d say that Mondo Jet Set are too reliant on mimicking other bands – but it honestly doesn’t matter. Before you spot the bit that sounds like Roxy Music, they’ve already started sounding like the Television Personalities. 45 minutes fly by.

Robins and Laming don’t seem to ever give interviews, and the only way you will ever hear them performing live is by turning up unannounced at their house in Dorset. I suspect they know that pop stardom isn’t so much highly unlikely as it is utterly impossible. But, the lucky few who stumble upon this album are in for a treat. It is genuinely hard to imagine how they Mondo Jet Set could have made their ‘Provincial Drama Club’ more enjoyable.

Benjamin Howarth


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