Ping Pong

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The second Momus album issued in America by Le Grand Magistery, Ping Pong marks the flowering of the so-called "analog baroque" style that would be further developed on The Little Red Songbook (although there had been hints of it even in the early synth-pop days). The themes and obsessions are typical of latter-day Momus -- misanthropic wit, sexual mischief, intellectual esoterica, Japanese culture -- and are scattered around the album in an occasionally cohesive fashion. As usual, Momus' stylistic range is impressive: baroque chamber pop, of course, but also waltzes, disco, delicate ballads, Shibuya-kei pop, mock Russian dances, Serge Gainsbourg/Jacques Brel-style French pop, bossa nova, and extended rambling narratives, to cover the majority of it. Although the album is somewhat uneven, highlights are plentiful: the snarky loathing of "His Majesty the Baby," the angel/devil dichotomy in "My Pervert Doppelganger" (a recurring theme in Momus' work), the cleverly constructed wordplay of "I Want You, But I Don't Need You" and "My Kindly Friend the Censor," and Momus' own version of "Lolitapop Dollhouse," the young-feminist anthem he penned for Kahimi Karie. Unfortunately, there are times when Ping Pong bogs down in unfocused, overly long songs that stall the momentum built up by the best material. With some more editing, Ping Pong might have been one of Momus' best efforts; as it is, it's simply a fine album, uneven but featuring too much top-notch material for most fans to pass up.

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