John Cooper Clarke

Disguise in Love

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Although John Cooper-Clarke's caustic brand of "talking in tune" initially earned him the label of the new wave George Formby, he soon won recognition as the British punk scene's poet laureate. Following the Innocents EP and the 1978 album Où Est la Maison de Fromage? (both on Martin Hannett's Rabid Records), Disguise in Love was Clarke's major-label debut. This album finds the Mancunian bard at his adenoidal, alliterative best, delivering some of his more memorable satirical verses. Fixated on the daily, warts-and-all miseries of life in postwar Britain and beyond, Clarke casts a wide misanthropic net, taking on everything from track suits to extraterrestrials. The Invisible Girls (featuring Bill Nelson, Pete Shelley, and Martin Hannett) provide musical backing that complements each poem, from a minimal, heartbeat-style jogging groove ("Health Fanatic") to a cheesy disco pastiche ("Post War Glamour Girl"). Clarke's performance works well with these arrangements, especially on "(I Married A) Monster From Outer Space" -- a story of intergalactic love gone wrong set to sci-fi electronics -- and "Readers' Wives," on which lurid observations on D.I.Y. polaroid porn are adorned with an appropriately kitschy soundtrack. Clarke's ear for the rhythms of everyday language and his galloping, sometimes staccato delivery can be best appreciated on two unaccompanied pieces: "Salome Maloney," an apocalyptic tale of ballroom dancing and death, and "Psycle Sluts 1&2," an amphetamine-paced paean to biker women praised by Frank Zappa as an example of Clarke's "exquisite diction." While it's a testament to Clarke's comic sensibility that these tracks remain laugh-out-loud funny, it's also important to recognize him as an innovator. Just as pop writers like the Mersey poets made Clarke's work possible, so Clarke opened the doors for numerous (less-talented) ranters and popular wordsmiths such as Attila the Stockbroker, Joolz, Seething Wells, and Benjamin Zephaniah.

blue highlight denotes track pick