More Hammond Pops

Retro-pastiche easy-listening humour on Organ Greats (KINGS ROAD 001) from the team of Montague Armstrong…this English duo have rescued and repaired old home organs and use them to make their enjoyable slightly tongue-in-cheek pop music records. This time they’re even pictured on the cover sitting in the garden shed where these instruments live out their newly-reconstituted lives, hopefully rescued from a seaside charity shop; I have seen at least one such on sale at the bargain price of £25.00. I expect they’re not very popular with today’s customers since the aspiration to play pop hits at home with built-in “Magic Genie” (a lazy way to play chords) and bossa nova rhythms belongs to the early 1970s, along with rolls of Fablon and Benny Hill on the telly. Plus an average Lowrey organ is quite a bulky piece of furniture to have in the living room.

Montague Armstrong don’t limit themselves exclusively to the organ on this record, as synths and other bloopy sounds are detectable to decorate the melodies, plus there are guest players with real instruments on a few tracks – drummer Tom Murrow, guitarist Jon Tregenna, and singer Nadia Al Faghih Hasan with her djembe. Unlike the Ghostbox brigade (and to some extent the Castles In Space label), who are aiming for something very precise from UK 20th-century history with their expertly-calibrated TV and cinema nostalgia, this record isn’t a through-and-through pastiche; the sleeve design misses several tricks on that account with its plain typeface and even plainer photo, and apart from the non-digital quaint sounds of the electronic organs, the melodies and instrumentals are non-specific exercises in basic jolly pop tunes. Then there’s the rather thin production, sounding for the most part like it was actually recorded in that same garden shed; unlikely to be mistaken for a Les Baxter LP at 20 paces.

When last we heard Jude Cowan Montague and Matt Armstrong in 2018, I seemed convinced they were locking into a post-punk groove of some sort, but there’s not so much evidence of that here today; indeed one is quite hard put to find anything especially “experimental” or “strange” in these fluffy candy-coated jaunsters, albeit that some tracks, such as ‘The Collar’, have a clever line in “tricky” time signatures and chord changes that are quite satisfying for repeat listens. From 1st February 2022.

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