Maniac Squat Records [Release date 09.11.15]
Back in 1974 David Bowie, regaled us with tales of a skeletal post-apocalyptic landscape of Diamond Dogs. By then, Mick Ronson was no longer his trusted foil, but 40 years later Ronson’s daughter seems to have revisited the musical soundscape painted all those years ago by Bowie’s Future Vision.
A curious release, Emperors Of Medieval Japan features swirling pop synths melded with alternative rock – an emerging genre referred to by her fans as ‘Post Synthetic’. And there’s some heavyweight musical talent on display – former Bowie guitarists Reeves Gabrels and Earl Slick, Mott The Hoople keyboard player Morgan Fisher – whose rippling piano evoking memories of Mike Garson’s work with Bowie – guitarist / programmer Paul Cuddeford, and the absolute star of the show – Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey, Gallon Drunk, Yoko Ono) whose marvellously dirty and percussive saxophone work is highly reminiscent of that of Mel Collins circa Lizard era King Crimson.
The totality provides a canvas for Ronson’s dreamy semi-spoken vocals. There’s a couple tracks – ‘One Luna Month’ and ‘CKSB’ – that feel somewhat lightweight, echoing tones of Music-era Madonna and Debbie Harry, but for the most part Emperors Of Medieval Japan has the progressive intensity of early King Crimson – a quality rarely encountered these days.
And it’s nice to see a cover – in this case of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ 1960 hit ‘Shakin’ All Over’ – given an almost indistinguishable make-over – again with Edward’s sax being quite magnificent. And when the band is in full flow, as on ‘Get To You’, the glorious cacophony of guitar, keys, and sax interplay is quite outstanding.
The output of musical sons and daughters is usually a feeble whimper compared to that of their famous mother/father. But when Lisa Ronson spreads her wings she’s a force majeure. If you’re fed up with the ‘same old, same old’ give Emperors Of Medieval Japan a listen – it’s a splash of colour in an otherwise black and white music scene. ****1/2
Review by Pete Whalley
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
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