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Pepe Deluxe: Queen of the Wave; an Esoteric Pop Opera in Three Parts (Deluxe Edition)

Reviewed By: Dave Goodwin
Label: Catskill Records
Format: CD Box

The latest album by Pepe Deluxe, which came out originally last January, has just been released in an expanded edition which comes in three different parts. There is the album itself, ‘Queen of the Wave: An Esoteric Pop Opera in Three Parts'; a bonus CD of music,‘Sounds and Sparks from the Forge That Created Queen of the Wave‘, and a DVD, ‘Optical Presentations and Additional Music Ephemera‘. Their website also has various other bits and bobs to do with the album, such as plug-ins and add-ons, for sale.

What struck me, as I listened to the two CDs and then the next night watched the DVD, was that Pepe Deluxe are absolutely fucking bonkers! And I mean that in a good way, a very big smile-on-the-face and not in a lock-them-in-a-straightjacket way.

Let’s start with the DVD, and you will see what I mean. This is lavishly decorated with images depicting the main theme that runs through the three segments, and is the story of Zailm who with a band of others fought the antagonist Mainin. This via short trips to Venus and back ended in the ultimate demise of Atlantis.

The DVD is packed with great eye delights such as the video to 'The Storm' which provides a guitar string-eyed view of what looks like Death playing his guitar in his bedroom. 'Go Supersonic' meanwhile introduces the SSSS ( Super Sonic Sound System), which in turn sports a mainframe with 21 modules including the VC LFO ( Virtual Chicken Little Funk Operator ), and more importantly a three year warranty. 'Salami Fever' does exactly what its title says, having two martial arts-driven men fighting it out using pork product as weapons. It also includes a great 'Matrix' style jump over a leather settee. 'Girl' is a funky affair featuring lead singers straight from the Four Tops’ School of Entertainment entertaining a white bloke that quite clearly can't dance and a black girl that quite clearly can. Also included in here is 'Pussycat Rock', which charts the exploits of a girl group on stage being led by a white battery-operated cat with human teeth which explodes into a puff of smoke at the end.

Still with me? Good! We are now on our way to the main event, which is the album, 'Queen of the Wave'.

At this point I need to explain. Pepe Deluxe is an inter-continental collective orchestra directed by James Spectrum - Baron of Sealand - and Paul MalmstrÖm- an explorer of worlds both known and unknown. They are helped on their way by many others. Just open the first page to the flamboyant sleeve notes and you will find references to all sorts of musicians, helpers, pilots and milkmen. The amount of people involved in this work of brilliance is astronomical.

The album itself is based on the legendary books on Atlantis, ‘A Dweller on Two Planets’ and its sequel ‘Earth Dwellers Return’. Inspired by Atlantean science and technology, the album features unique instruments and equipment such as the Great Stalacpipe Organ (the largest musical instrument in the world), Edison's Ghost Machine, Professor A.D. Conrow's Psychical Predictor and a 500 000 volt Tesla Coil Synthesizer.

It is split into three parts of which the first holds tracks 'Queenswave', 'A Night and a Day', and 'Go Supersonic' which introduces the characters and charts the start of Zailm’s quest, the first steps of Mainin and our hero's visit to the Emperor to acquire the service of one Vailx Ship. The second part takes us from 'Temple of Unfed Fire' which depicts Atlantean sanctuary Inclithlon, through 'Hesperus' Garden' to a 'Grave Prophecy', and to the weird and wonderful culmination of this part 'In the Cave'. The last part of this extravaganza starts with 'My Flaming Thirst' which tells us of Zailm’s mistake of a lifetime, and 'Iron Giant' where he visits Merton Fowler, inventor of the great organ, 'The Storm' takes them all on a voyage before there is a full speed ending with 'Riders on the First Ark'.

Musically as you might expect, this is gargantuan. The instruments and singers keep you totally riveted while the comical yet clever lyrics send you on a thoroughly enjoyable ride. It is funky in places and a full-on rock record in others whilst throughout also maintaining an operatic feel. People will undoubtedly compare it to 'the War of the Worlds', but they should not. This is different.

If you look at the sleeve notes which is, I suppose, the fourth part to this epic you can see the absolute amount of work that has gone into this. As well as drawings of Atlantis itself, it is packed with other images and artefacts including electric rifles.

The second disc, 'Pipe Dreams’, contains additional sounds and sparks from the making of the main album. These include instrumentals, sound clips, The Joe 90 style '1884' the 60's hip swinger 'Bongo Up' and 'Cities in the Air' which, and don't ask me how, transported me back to my Mod revival days.

Whilst being absolutely bonkers, ‘Queen of the Wave’ somehow stays on the tracks, but only just. If you're brave enough listen to it, but don’t blame me if you come out the other side wearing sausages and shouting “Wibble”!


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