archive review originally posted on the losing today site c.2003 …..
Third album from London based duo Toby Jenkins and Steve Webster and rapidly honing and closing nearer to their collective vision of creating ‘cerebral psychedelic audio’. ‘Pretty Monster’ has all the subtle trappings that separate the great from truly classic, distinctly out of sync with their contempories, aptly titled, like Mary Shelley’s classic gothic horror creation, the duo draw their inspiration from well proven sources almost Frankenstein like, that’s not to say that they are copyists far from it, they source the essence of lost classic touches from the late 60’s and early 70’s, and weave together a formidable patchwork of melodic body parts. In recent memory only last years masterful long-player from the Eskimos come close for comparison.
This album ducks and dives through the genres like a what’s what of the last 30 years, featuring the two previous trailer singles: the dirty glam-tastic strutting stomper ‘Rock ‘n’ roll’ and the majestic tripping symphony ‘The Chilling Place’ which encapsulates within four minutes everything you ever needed but where afraid to ask about the concept of the rock opera. (Detailed reviews at http://www.losingtoday.com/tales.php?id=21 ). ‘Pretty Monster’ opens with the laid back twin-set ‘Insome Overdrive’ and ‘Prey to the Stars’, the former sounding like some chin stroking pot smoking jazz band playing chilled drop out blues fronted by Bolan, while the latter is a sensual sounding Bolan boogieing on down with the Faces in autumnal glam / MOR moods.
‘My vacant mind’ trips in it’s own lysergic haze, an awesome neo psychedelic dream collage that envisages the Porcupine Tree strolling through Strawberry Fields while in sharp contrast the warming spacey arrangements of the spectrally charged shape shifting swirls of ‘May the scene last a thousand years’ enlists a tip toeing hallucogenic Vengelis to the rescue with the impromptu invasions of John Barry Bond-esque back drops threatening to swarm. Then there’s the sleazily etched early 70’s Vegas funk out of ‘Sexy Creature’ and the intimate rustic sounds of the grandiose ‘Hello it’s me’ which toys with the ghosts of ‘Forever Changes’.
However for me Fort Lauderdale excel when they are at their darkest and most pensive,‘Force of Nature’ is a hidden gem that utilises a sinister edge at it’s core and jigs about with ruminating space exotica textures that recall the more buoyant interludes of Stereolab’s ‘Cobras’, subtle stratospheric chords with Floydist ambitions are charged by spine tingling wide-screen dynamics that recalls the stalking arrangements of Henry Mancini messing with the Penguin Café Orchestra. Without doubt though the albums highlight is the title track which ushers the set to conclusion. Heartbreakingly elegant and tearfully melancholic, sensually packed twinkling electronic symphonies waltz lovingly with classic string accompaniment and Satie wizardry combining to create a feast of colour to the bleak void they entertain, perfection.
‘Pretty Monster’ is an astonishing album that refuses to relax, always surprises and never dulls in its elegant charm as it cherry picks pop’s great coda to accomplish something that suspiciosly resembles nomination for the album of the year.