Pop is pop for a reason. Without sounding like a government soundbite, what I mean is, pop, as in the music, is popular for good reason; the catchiness often in the simplicity, which consequently sells. And if it sells, it’s pop, regardless of the many subgenres and youth cultures which an era carries pop along, it’s always continued this ethos. It’s only a particular “genre” for the time being. I use the term as loosely, then, as it should be used. Feel free to shudder at modern commercialisation, but that’s been building for decades and you shouldn’t let it put you off; you’ll miss something special because you preconceive its popularity is a hallmark from a polluted industrial mechanism.
The above annotation I write because I don’t want you to run off with the idea, I’m talking contemporary chart hits when I use the term pop. Out of the assortment Devizes’ legendary bluesman Jon Amor offered on his last major album two years ago, Colour in the Sky, I tended to cherry-pick those deviating from his traditional electric blues style, and they promptly became the standout tracks, Illuminous Girl and Red Telephone. He need not appease his devotees; they follow this modification with bells on. Because, fundamentally it’s more “pop,” in so much as it’s appealing for this beguiling ease.
This transitory, perhaps, shift for Jon was stamped on the last single, the incredibly addictive Peppercorn, a lively upbeat and Elvis Costello fashioned rock, without the leftist post-punk political angle of yore. Now the single has been followed up with an album, Remote Control, impulsively launched without the need for the usual pe-hype. All the tunes follow the aforementioned style of Peppercorn, the penultimate track on the collection. Dammit, this is good, but you knew it would be.
News of it literally arrived via Facebook post yesterday, “this year,” Jon posted, “I’ve been spending a lot of my weekends recording some songs, and I appear to have made an album.” And as if by magic, today (27th November) it’s a thing. So, was it as spontaneous as it sounds, a result of lockdown?
“I suppose initially it was the result of lockdown,” Jon replied, “yeah, I was working all week and had nothing to do at weekends!” If there’s only one good thing to come out of all this, I noted, thinking Erin Bardwell’s Interval album in particular, is that artists have had the time to write and create, and there’s good material flowing from all genres. Then I waffled some similarities in a piece I was reading about the great plague, where it modernised and revolutionized both folk and classical music, possibly gave birth to the renaissance.
“I think a lot of people embraced the spare time and the isolation and turned it into a positive,” Jon added. “Now I’m picturing video conference calls and zoom quizzes in the 1600s…”
While Jon is clearly experimenting, dabbling this more pop sound with Remote Control, it’s also temptingly raw and punchy. There are some retrospective glances, the opening tune Song and Dance is a catchy three-minute Merseybeat blast, whereas If a Million is demarcated Curtis Mayfield funk. 03 57961 (That’s my Number) bounces like a quirky ZZ Top, whereas Robot Skin follows, using the guitar like white noise, overridden with a Gecko styled rap.
I’m intrigued now, wondering where this will take me next, and even if Next plays out the downbeat trip-hop style, akin to Portishead meeting Costello, it remains definitively Jon Amor. Just a Bomb booms power pop, with a singable chorus after just the one listen. We’re one track down before Peppercorn, you’d be mistaken by the title that this is locally-themed, Moonraker, is Bowie spacey and maybe a reference to the Bond movie rather than a Devizes pond fable.
The finale rings with everything we’ve suggested at the start, this is poptastic for catchiness. Do Bop-Bop is staunchly irresistible. Exotic bongos, Californian beatnik surfer goodness; ideal daydream for wintertime locked down in England!
In conclusion, I need not convince Jon’s lifetime fans, they will buy it and love the fact they have. For others, this is an interesting progression with great prose, it’s joyful and quirky and explores styles without selling-out or shifting the central pivot point, which is Jon Amor, da man rocks! All the above basically adds up to; this is highly entertaining on the ears and persuasive on the feet to tap.