The soundtrack to pop culture's here and now
It's simply phenomenal how Marshall Cooper has managed to turn his debut album "Backseat Lover" into an out-and-out homage to 20th and 21st century pop culture even though you won't find a discophile anywhere who would place this album in the pop genre. This acoustic paradox is probably down to the brawny brass band sound which somehow, from a wild tangle of genre clichés and pop snippets, weaves a fresh and wide-ranging associative thread firmly rooted in pop culture's here and now.
This illusory world is built on an essential cultural medium. Taking the sound aesthetics of analog old-school cinema as the driving force, the album transforms the epic language of film music into the bold and simple sound of a brass band.
The 14 tracks feature an elegant variety of musical styles, from swing, rock 'n' roll and funk to pop, with touches of classical mixed in. The ingredients are all thrown together into the film music pot, rounded off and refined with some dramatic dialogue samples and fleshed out with a small but exclusive flock of guest musicians.
The result is a collection of film music tracks which sound like they already existed although they were never written, a soundtrack that would be a credit to any Tarantino flick. It's the whimsical Ennio Morricone-esque flourishes that reveal the true inspiration behind the musical heart beating at the centre of the album. The tracks on "Backseat Lover" bristle with wonderful self-parody, while simultaneously impressing the listener with their compositional panache and diversity. What could have ended up absurd has turned out delightfully full-on, in-your-face and self-evident. Moments of nascent sentimentality are consistently and intentionally diffused with touches of refined humour, irony and mordant wit. The record thrills as both pop-literary narrative and sophisticated trash movie, a series of episodes collated into a concept album which sounds as hopelessly nostalgic as it is devastatingly modern.
The tracks were composed and arranged by band leader Manuel Hilleke whose cinematic and musical influences are given sensual expression on "Backseat Lover". The same devotion to perfection evident in the music is also witnessed in the cover artwork.
There is an elaborate film poster print to accompany each song in the booklet and the combination of musical and haptic allure makes for a congenial package.