Sunday, January 25, 2009

Momus - Man of Letters

Earlier today I watched the Cherry Red released documentary, Momus: Man of Letters. Prior to watching this, I knew a few Momus songs but far more about his reputation as an oddball Scottish intellectual pop star with a penchant for a tartan eye patch. After watching this documentary, I'm not quite sure what to make of him.

Made in 1993 by Hannu Puttonen, it delves into cult of Momus to understand who, what and why he is what he is and does what he does. Cameos from Jarvis Cocker, Sarah Cracknell, Ed Ball and Simon Fisher Turner feature, and the doco entwines Momus film clips with commentary and dialogue on how words can be so confusing.

What I struggled with, though, is Momus's unending emphasis on sex in all forms, from the playful to the perverse. While I haven't listened to his albums in depth, I'm not sure if I can now - from what I can gather, he writes - nay, intellectualises - sex in all his lyrics. It is as though he can only write about what these deep feelings are, rather than actually feel them meaningfully for himself. In fact, in his discussions about falling in love with a 16-year-old Muslim girl and wanting to marry her, he came across more as a sex-crazed teenage virgin who is consumed by the longing for sex, yet is entirely scared by the prospect of the act itself. I couldn't understand it.

Listening to the music, too, I suspect he has chosen pop music as his medium for sharing his wisdom with the world. At times, it would appear spoken word may have been enough, especially in light of how dated many of his songs now sound. Please, never mention the word "folktronica" to me again.

Nonetheless, I am still intrigued. He is highly, highly intellectual - so much so it scares me somewhat - and I have much to learn from such people. However, can I truly appreciate his writing and music knowing that, deep down, he is so deeply perverse? It's challenging - somewhat sickening, too. A strange, strange man.


stevie said...

Good piece Alex! I sometimes think with Momus that you feel you 'should' like him rather than hmmm.. actually liking him. I suppose I need to listen to more of his work before I can make a true assessment. :)

Anonymous said...

I was the DP for the "Momus-Man of Letters" project. I worked with Nick Currie for a couple of weeks in Helsinki and London. He's a nice guy, a real artist and I am in contact with one of the interview subjects. The shoot was fun. For it's time, the project was very innovative. I think of Momus as a David Bowie unrecognized.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, there are many songs of his that are not about sex in the least. It is true that some of his songs sound dated (yes, that Folktronica album, but also Little Red Songbook before that and Stars Forever as well), but he does it on purpose. Other albums (like his most recent album, Joemus) try to play out with mixing very modern music (glitch pop) with very old music (torch songs).

As a Momus fan, I do admit that there are a few songs of his that I can't stand ... there are just as many that I love. I do recommend that you give him another chance. Listen to The Philosophy of Momus for some excellent tracks that are not about sex (as well as a few that are).