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Paul Vickers and The Leg – The Greengrocer (Pumpkintone/Alter Ego)

Four stars

Don't be fooled by the troubadourish mediaevalisms of the jaunty guitar flourish that opens the third and much belated opus by the wildest junkyard auteurs to ever embark on a galloping collision course of surrealist lyrical fantasms and stumblebum musical fury. There may be church bells and rivers flowing inbetween the ten manic vignettes contained therein, but it's open all hours in this food-stuff-based quasi concept album co-released through King Creosote's new micro-label, and which can't help but inspire words like 'opus' and 'therein' as they tap into Vickers' wilfully archaic fairytale-kingdom sooth-saying.

Within seconds, Vickers is phlegmatically regaling us with the poignant tale of 'My Trifle' with the guttural urgency of Kevin Coyne accompanied by the three-pronged assault of The Leg's Dan Mutch on guitar, Pete Harvey on cello and Alun Thomas on drums. Nothing more is to be taken as lightly, from the deranged East European gallop of 'Tulips of Delft' to the Jungle Book show-tune march of 'Bendy Bridge (Look Out Wendy)' and beyond.

Despite all this, the musical palette is more nuanced than on 'The Greengrocer's predecessors, 2008's 'Tropical Favourites' and 'Itchy Grumble' from 2010. Like them, this new epic is a sonic map of Vickers and co's collective psyche in all its warped glory, albeit with more tunefully produced levity. If 'Bound to the Sour' is a ripped and stripped B-movie western theme, the fiddle-led stomp of 'Horns and Anvils' threatens to break out into a full-on punk-folk hoe-down complete with keening chorus. The early hookline of 'Chaos Magic', meanwhile, oddly recalls Duran Duran's 'Planet Earth' before erupting with urgent abandon.

The title song's opening piano and cello refrain conjuring up eerie reminders to softcore Hammer horror reveries before launching into an off-kilter supper-time romp complete with clarinets, jungle pounding and the odd Roger Whittaker style whistle. There are hints of a Latin shuffle hidden in the thick of '7 Floors of Pleasure', while the extended spoken-word narrative of 'Polynesian Snuff' is a menacing ghost story avalanche designed to scare small boys and girls after dark.

The finale comes in the shape of the spoon-rattling re-appropriation of the Benny Hill theme that is 'Straggler on the Run'. After such a shelf-flying storm, everything is locked up for the night and the green-grocer whistles his way home, knowing only too well what happens when curious urchins shop local for the crunchiest and most intoxicating of ingredients in town.
 
The List, March 2015

ends

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