Simon Burgess (Simon Somatic), producing under the moniker “Pope”, has left in his wake the raw, angular sound of previous projects and come up with a collection of disparate eccentricity for the twenty first century. “Pope on a Rope” is an aural gallery of stories encased in tightly produced tunes which are the future whilst simultaneously being the past. “The Drag of Sloth” is lyrically deadpan, and features organ which appears to be from an altogether different piece of music. The angular guitar breaks appear, at first listen, totally incongruent, but as the piece unfolds, the listener’s ears become accustomed, and the joyfulness begins.
“Still Life”, again interlaced with those pokerfaced lyrics, is driven along with rapid polyphonic digital bleeps that are somehow reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s Synclavier work on “Jazz from Hell”. The straight ahead acoustic guitar based “Bunker Bill” is playful by comparison, before the impolite “Dummy’s Boy” slaps the listener in the face with an onslaught of 1980’s video game electronics, elaborate drum patterns, lager and tongue in cheek lyricism.
Instrumentals such as “Jazz Pile”, and to some extent from the mind of a tree on “Holy Summer”, go some way to show how Pope are capable, compositionally, of creating the equivalent of the contemporary jazz curiosity and push the boundaries of what this can mean to most people. The real surprise to “Pope on a Rope” is the Yoko Ono-baiting “Just Imagine” which is clearly a reworking of John Lennon’s household “Imagine”, with a taste of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale”. Warning the indolent listener who may have their “head in the arse of a daydream”, about the perils of daydreaming, the hippy ideology is turned on its head and presented to a twenty first century audience as an ironic word of caution. An unaltered version of this tune is available to hear on Burgess’s website www.simonsomatic.com . This collection of curios is completed with a trouble-free “Room 4”, candid and lugubrious; the listener is released from the journey, and free to return to their regular lives.
The range of styles present throughout this short album may appear schizophrenic, but with careful consideration, that too could be considered its potency. The mournful and sardonic vocals throughout display the kind of eccentricity that is sadly lacking from more mainstream music at the moment, and hints at a devious yet honest approach to music production. If a genre were required to be invented to help understand “Pope on a Rope”, then this reviewer would suggest “post-bleep”.