(November 2003, James Anderson)
Curveball solo project hits a melodious bullseye.
Typically emerging from slumber as the afternoon advances, Tom Bauchop - aka U.N.P.O.C -is nonetheless no bleary-eyed slacker. His ability to produce a lo-fi masterpiece of an album, 'Fifth Column', has certainly not been diminished by a lack of dawn-time cock crowings, or a fondness for watching six hour-long TV documentaries throughout the night. Even more astonishingly, the 25-year old multi-tasker juggles college studies in Computer Science with mining the aforementioned musical seam. "I've been doing the tunes for years" he says, referring to an extensive archive of until now little-heard songs. “It's only in the last few months that combining the music with the studies has got a bit messy." As the murmurings of U.N.P.O.C appreciation grow increasingly loud, he may never get chance to don that graduation cap and gown...
Despite the interest in technology, this is no geeky bleep-fest. 'Fifth Column' - emerging upon the Domino label- is gritty, multi-layered pop that brings to mind the scratchy, buzzy likes of The Kinks, Brian Wilson, The Ronettes _ along with certain darker hues of Joy Division. (Of the latter band, Tom recalls his older brother owning various of their records, many moons ago: "1 was like, thirteen, at the time, and he wouldn't even let me listen to them till I was fifteen!") By the way: U.N.P.O.C currently stands for Unable to Navigate Probably On Course - an old shipping term - but Tom reveals there are myriad potential meanings. So make up your own.
At the origins of his early dabblings in tune-smithing, was a primary school music teacher from Planet Freaky: "She was a battle-axe who’d come round and absolutely hammer the piano, like Jerry Lee Lewis," a wincing Tom remembers. "We would have to run up and down the scales- and I was in total terror when we had to learn and perform 'Do Ra Me' backwards for her." This may go some way to explaining why, nowadays, he prefers to exercise a quieter, solo control over his song making. There was, however, an aborted attempt to recreate early demos of the tracks that make up 'Fifth Column' with other musicians. Tom recalls, "But it felt like something was getting lost - it was becoming too polished. So, in the end, I kind of reclaimed it and worked on it myself."
Who'd have thought warts 'n' all could sound this perfect?