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X-Ray magazine

(issue 10, November 2003, Sharon O'Connell)

ANYONE WHO'S ever travelled to one of the world's further-flung countries will at one time probably have read a menu in approximate English and laughed out loud on realising what ifs trying to tell them. The words aren't wrong, just shifted out of whack and the meaning thus lost in translation.

That's what listening to the debut album by the mysteriously named U.N.P.O.C (Tom Bauchop to his mates) is like. This Fife native seems to have bought a series of 'How to Write a Song Like...' books and had the volumes covering The Beach Boys, Roky Erickson. Super Furry Animals, The Kinks and Syd Barrett translated into Korean and then back into English before he started work.

The result is Fifth Column, a gentle and unaffected work of twisted inspiration that reveals Bauchop's muse as running refreshingly free of pressures from the zeitgeist or the pernicious demands of a sales-driven music industry. Bauchop might very well be bonkers, but then, as one of the Fence mob, he'd have to be. Its members include James Yorkston and The Athletes, Lone Pigeon (ie Gordon Anderson, once of The Beta Band), Pip Dylan, Billy Pilgrim and King Creosote, and each has their own, idiosyncratic take on psychedelic neo-folk. U.N.P.O.C.'s wonderfully wonky vision reveals beauty everywhere, his naive, but endearing talent bypassing both technical and conceptual expectations. His voice can affect both the flat bark of Mark E Smith and Brian Wilson's poignant falsetto -sometimes in the same song {'] Love You, Lady Luck') - while 'Beautiful to Me' could make Sleepy Jackson's Luke Steele weep. The multi-tracked 'So in Tune’ (where, cutely Bauchop sings off-key) is The Flaming Lips by way of My Morning Jacket, but 'Nicaragua' sounds like The Beta Band with their batteries run down. Everywhere, extravagant reverb underlines feelings of dislocation and solitude. "I'm here on my own/' U.N.P.O.C. wails at one point Not at all, Tom. We're with you every step of the way.