King of Luxembourg

Royal Bastard

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Anyone for whom the name Simon Fisher-Turner evokes the somewhat daunting soundscapes he composed for the films of Derek Jarman or his own ambient/avant-garde recordings might be surprised to learn that he also briefly plied his trade as the foppish and fey-voiced King of Luxembourg. Behind the elaborate façade, however, lay not just Turner's considerable intelligence but the mischievous pop smarts of él label boss Mike Alway and the ingenious arrangements and compositions of Louis Philippe. Royal Bastard opens with a sprightly cover of the Monkees hit "Valleri": released as a single, it probably attracted more attention in the music press than the rest of Turner's output combined, not least because it flew so flamboyantly in the face of the prevailing fashion for all things dour and authentic. Like most of él's releases, however, it failed to make any impact whatsoever on the BBC, with one insider claiming that the track's total lack of bass made it virtually unlistenable through a portable radio. Anyone thus led to expect an album of conventional sunshine pop might have been a little disoriented by what followed. Admittedly there were more '60s covers in the form of the Turtles' "Happy Together," the Castaways' "Liar, Liar," and the delightful but little-known Mirage single from 1967 "The Marriage of Ramona Blair." But there was also a characteristically wispy treatment of the decidedly unwispy Public Image song "Poptones," anticipating the King's foray into Beefheart territory on Sir. But it's Louis Philippe who provides two of the album's finest moments with the heavenly chamber pop of "The Rubens Room" (apparently written to order at Mike Alway's request) and the insidiously catchy "Smash Hit Wonder." Nevertheless, though Alway is known to prefer the ramshackle charm of the King's debut, many listeners might find that its follow-up is the more fully formed of the two.

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