[PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Woodward/Crimson Glow Photography] We've raved about Projekt A-ko's towering debut Yoyodyne so much already that a review at this point would be superfluous. Instead, we've asked band fronter Fergus Lawrie for a track-by-track breakdown of the record, whose official release date is Monday in the U.K. Mr. Lawrie was kind enough to oblige, but first we do have these remarks: if there is anything disappointing about Projekt A-ko's full-length debut it is that, at least for the time being, the band is solely a recording unit, and no touring to tout the record is planned. This is a shame, as we believe Yoyodyne is the best record released in 2009 to date. Lawrie, et al.'s potent amalgamation of early (read: good) Mercury Rev, Teenage Fanclub and mid-period Dinosaur Jr. would certainly win fans were the band to snag a slot on a hot tour supporting, say, Dinosaur, or Johnny Foreigner, or... well, it doesn't really matter. There's no tour to look forward to for now. There's also no distribution, no press agents (beyond some help from Darren Walker of Filthy Little Angels, who initially hipped us to the record), no advertising -- Yoyodyne is wholly DIY, released on Projekt A-ko's own Milk Pie imprint, only available by Internet order and in select shops in Glasgow. The good thing is there are more recordings in the offing, including what promises to be a shattering cover of Drop Nineteens' "Winona," which is one of Lowrie's all-time favorite tracks (and one of ours, as well). So we've that to look forward to. Now let's see what Lawrie has to say about the songs on Yoyodyne.
Track One: Hey Palooka!
"How’s it feel to be surreal, how’s it feel to be corporeal?" The oldest song on the album written (as a development from Urusei Yatsura songs "Plastic Ashtray" and "Majesty") as part of an ongoing effort to get to grips with "Winona" by Drop Nineteens, an all time favourite song of mine -- we’re working on recording a cover version just now. The long intro to "Hey Palooka" is kind of meant to be intentionally frustrating to people who expect bands to put the obvious "hit" song at the front of the album. The tracklisting was devised by my friend Captain Polaroid as I felt too close to the songs. I think he did a great job of creating a flow and making the album a real grower. Also includes the phrase "pyroclastic flow" (thanks to Kenny!).
Track Two: Nothing Works Twice
"A unique confluence of movement and time -- or not." Sardonic attempt to acknowledge the futility of being in a band coupled with a warning to stop being in a band whilst still being in a band, doh! At one point we actually literally rip off Pixies as opposed to being "heavily influenced" by them or whatever...
Track Three: Supertriste Duxelle
"A gown of Martian spores." Possibly a Stereolab song with the drone surgically removed. Lyrically seeking synthesis of retro / sci-fi / historical / hardboiled / personal / microbiological inspirations. I tried to be fearless with words for these songs even if it meant overdoing it a bit sometimes.
Track Four: Here Comes New Challenger!
"Hey Keiko, give a little milk!", "I tried, but my tears were wine." A light-hearted romp through mortality and the human condition. All post-modern pop is self-aware and in this case the last verse serves as a critique of the song itself [This is totally our favorite part, too -- Ed.].
Track Five: Xavier
"Wish I had a luminous left arm!" An historical epic. A long time was spent structuring this song and I guess it just about hangs together. References include 1) a saint who lived in a cave in Fife and copied the Bible by the light of his glowing right arm and 2) The Bangles. The guitars actually sounded even more foul and brutal until Steven Ward -- who did an incredible job producing and engineering the album -- ditched a couple of Fender Twins we’d used in the recording from the mix. I love Elaine’s vox on this song, especially at the end. It's been great having her start to sing and I hope she’ll be doing a lot more.
Track Six: Molten Hearts
"Eyes like atomic decay, hearts melt like snow bouquets." Finally, the secret truth about Dr. Phibes and Vulnavia! This was the last song written for the album and a lot of fun to record and play; I’d love to play it live. The drums and some of the guitars + vox for this and "Ichiro," "Scintilla" and "Black Empire" were recorded at CaVa studios in Glasgow by Geoff Allan.
Track Seven: Scintilla
"Jars of State moonshine." Drunken Cosmonaut fires death ray at random, or thinks he does. We had a "2001: A Space Odyssey"-type arrangement for the middle drone, but it made the section too exciting so we dropped it in order to save all the extra instrumentation until the end of the album. The Tommy Cooper-style guitar solo was completely unrehearsed and done in one take -- I’m not sure whether to be proud of that or not...
Track Eight: Ichiro on 3rd
"The mind democratic, the heart is a fascist." Ichiro Suzuki [outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, according to Wikipedia -- Ed.] trapped in the jaws of America. He fantasises about a past lover before hitting a home run. He runs towards Japan. Too late, he’s already dead!
Track Nine: Otaku Blue
"Kevlar Superstar do your vinyl best." Underground Celebrity-obsessed geek thinks he's a robot. The alternative stars sing to him from the chorus to try and make him see sense. Nearly all the vox for this album were done in one take (yeah, I know, it shows!) apart from the little scream before the final verse which I had to do about 12 times before it sounded remotely convincing. That was in The Diving Bell with Marcus Mackay, who recorded some of the guitars and vox [he also recorded Frightened Rabbit's Sing The Greys, or at least parts of it -- Ed.]. My voice is knackered from belting out "Kewpies like Watermelon."
Track Ten: Utopia
"Anatomise thy foppery, just don’t fake on me now." Yes, the chorus is a Swirlies reference! It's possible the album breaks out in a fit of optimism at this point before collapsing into noise. We used a lot of effect boxes in a feedback loop to create the sonic squiggles at the end.
Track Eleven: Black Empire
"No man is an island but I am an isthmus." Some nice crisp drum fills from Ian. The distorted vocals were created using a baby monitor.
Track Twelve: Yoyodyne (Scintilla II)
"You only really exist in the days you fight." These last two songs were arranged by my friend Richard Spiller, an amazing musician who does a lot of music for TV shows. "It is nice party after all" is a line from a Bollywood film I was watching one night, "Angelica of despair" from an online poetry generator. Oedipa Maas from "The Crying of Lot 49" makes a brief appearance. I particularly like the arpeggio which decays into nothing at the end of the song, inspired by a visit to Glasgow’s premier minimal art/sound/noise festival Instal. Entropy in action.
Track Thirteen: Don’t Listen To This Song
"I made you love me then I let you down." I wrote the lyrics for this on the train to the recording so they’re kind of scratchy and unfinished, but it suits the song. This song is a spell. Don’t listen to it -- it can only work if you do, like using the video in "The Ring" or the disk in "Pulse" or the phone no. in "Cell."