Bobby Conn King For A Day(Thrill Jockey) Buy it from Insound
The Glam-junk hero, the anti-celebrity's celebrity, the tracksuit-wearing mail fraudster. Bobby Conn has always been an intriguing little man, always teetering on the edge of sanity, and always a great showman. Last year, a dingy basement show in Manchester ended with the band being "shrimped" (look it up) by the audience. Not a particularly pleasant image, but one that Bobby Conn seems to hold in high regard, dedicating lyrics to the very situation in the bossa-nova influenced title track. It is these glittering, and at times quite scary live shows, where he has forged his reputation. But he is yet to produce a record that matches these decadent and inspired performances. 2001's The Golden Age came closest, but still fell some way short with moments of near-genius littered with moments of craziness littered with, well, filler. This is why, I thought, King For A Day may be his seminal recording. Turns out not so.
A concept album dealing with life and death and all strangeness that comes within, King For A Day is Conn's "desperate attempt to lose myself in a candy-colored fantasyland of freaks and fairies." You have to applaud the man for having the guts to do things on such a grand scale, tongue-in-cheek or otherwise. Like a bootlegged Puccini opera recorded onto grainy VHS, the album begins with the murmur of a baby and ends with the bleeping of a life-support machine. The songs that come in between are eclectic and sprawling as you'd expect, ranging from the choral beginnings of opening track Vanitas, the King Crimson-like guitars on Sinking Ship, the Pussy Galore dirge of (I'm Through With) My Ego, through to the reflective torch song Things, finishing on an eerily uplifting ending.
As a whole, it leaves you thinking that Bobby Conn could have, if he wanted to, made a seminal underground record. Like The Golden Age, this certainly has some fine moments - off hand I can think of the rousing final chorus of King For A Day ("I'm back in my job every Monday Morning"), the funky build up of When The Money's Gone, the Curtis Mayfield riff of Twenty-One - but it's not until the eighth track that the best moment of the album arrives, with the snarl and danger in Bobby Conn's raised voice emitting the words "I want you to raise your fists and PUNCH THE SKY!" on the faux infommercial interlude. It makes you realise that there should be more of this. That when he is at his ferocious best, he is akin to Iggy Pop. But I don't know, maybe fatherhood has mellowed him out. Scientific fact - once you find love, happiness and responsibility then creativity wanes. Scientific fact. K? K. But there is enough here to suggest otherwise. He remains unlike anybody else around today, like a modern day Todd Rundgren, or a Marc Bolan for deviants. And I bet he could still vapourise Johnny Borrell just with his stare.5 February, 2007 - 21:00 — Peter Houghton