00.00—00.39: Acoustic guitars as clear as spring rivers, a soft bass playing isolated tunes. A guy huskily proclaims “I was born a thousand million miles away/In the forest they call Amsterdam/A direct descendant of the kings and queens/though they won’t say that I am”.
I: [half listening while I deal with a frustrating e-mail] Hm, this sounds nice.
00.40—01.15: The delightful melody has now fully crystallized. A powerful tambourine is introduced, all tune s are moving closer, the intensity increasing. The singer continues to deliver rather surrealistic lines.
I: [stop concentrating on the computer screen] Cool! Promising!
01.16—02.22: The intensity of the song increases slightly. The words “I didn’t tell them anything” weaves a soft mantra-like Persian rug, with the words “I’m sitting in the room with the light in my face/I’m sitting in the room with the alien race” on top of it.
I: [jumping around in the office with flapping arms] Oh how I hope that the rest of the record is the same! Who or what is this anyway? U.N.P.O.C.? An alias for a certain Tom Bauchop? And the record is called “Fifth Column”? Madness!
02.23—onwards: A little crescendo is reached in track one (which turns out to be called “Amsterdam”), the digital display on the CD-player changes to “2” and thereafter “3”, thereafter “4”, thereafter, thereafter, thereafter. And again and again.
I: [dressing up in a lilac magician costume, conjuring up the demon Gâanrk from a cast iron kettle and demanding that he spreads what I‘ve got to say throughout the country] Never before in the history of humanity has anyone made better music! U.N.P.O.C. is the Wyld Stallyns of reality, he will create world peace and by the year 2688 he will be hailed as a god! Glebrezu barbuzu-tanári Nalfeshnee!
Gâanrk: [starts flying over Sweden ringing a copper bell at the same time as he is distributing leaflets] Read this, read this, Johan Jacobson would like to announce a few things. And the people thought “Oh my, here is a music journalist who pulls out large and rather silly gestures to prove a point. Better check out what he has to say.” So papers were picked up and eyes wandered over the lines: Comrades! Let me by means of sentences explain exactly how much I love U.N.P.O.C..
But first some background history! Tom Bauchop is U.N.P.O.C. He calls Edinburgh “home”. “Fifth Column” is his debut record. All the sounds on it — vocals, guitar, bass, whistling, tambourine, drum machine, and harmonies — are played by him. Some drumming assistance is given by Stu Bastiman, who among other things has played with James Yorkston. Tom also has connections to the Fife-based record label/collective Fence (and if you have no idea what that is you have not read your Lisa Milberg well enough). U.N.P.O.C. stands for a number of different things, for example Until November Perhaps, Or Christmas.
Done! Now let’s talk about the landscape of sound (The People: “Yes, let’s!”). The fact is that I’d like to place the one on “Fifth Column” somewhere between Steve Albini’s “Surfer Rosa” production and the one Joe Boyd built together with Nick Drake. Clear, airy and precise, but still warm.
Moving on, why not discuss the melodies on the record by mentioning a few song associations? (The People: “Now you are spoiling us!”) “Been a While” reminds me of early Beach Boys in the refrain. “Here on My Own” flowers into something that without a problem could have been snuck onto the Pixies’ “Doolittle”. “Dark Harbour Wall” is Simon & Garfunkel. “Beautiful to Me” and “So in Tune” are the most beautiful British church ballads this side of House Martins version of “Caravan of Love”. Nicaragua”… I can not describe how good “Nicaragua” is but it has a guitar solo that Graham Coxon could have composed in his prime.
After such examples of melodies, why not focus on the lyrics for a while? (The People: “No way!”) From musings my mind, I cannot keep the pace, I’m falling behind/cos I love you” (“So in Tune”) to slightly confused lyrics like “Break for lunch/but I’ve got none/Stole my cars/back in Avignon” (“I Don’t Feel to Steady on my Feet”). Tom’s lyrics seem to always have something to say and he does it handsomely.
Conclusion! Before I sat down to write this homage, I had listened to U.N.P.O.C.’s “Fifth Column” at least five times a day for more than three weeks. Not since Pavements’ “Slanted & Enchanted” and Neutral Milk Hotels “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” have I played anything so many times without experiencing any sense of saturation.
That says a lot.
In full possession of all my senses Johan
End of letters. The People put the message aside and did… well that is up to them.
Gâanrk: [returning] I have fulfilled my duty, if it’s ok I’d like to rest for a thousand years now.
I: Good! You have performed well. Sleep! Siihashonar’arinth Marilith Yeenoghu!
Yes, we have done what we could. And now, time to get on with what I was doing. Play. Spin.
Article very kindly translated to English by Malin Johansson.
(High-Callibre Scandanavian music magazine, Winter 2003, Johan Jacobsson)
Swedish Language Version