The Korgis 2021
Stating that “reality sure leaves its mark” and making sure this mark has a soundtrack, British pop veterans deliver a concept epistle to the world.
Here’s a blast from the past – an album that, with its lambasting of our times and learning to love the progressively corrupted global population anew, is able to blow the present straight into the listener’s face, and this is quite a flabbergasting effort from the off – from the outside in, from the cover artwork to the music underneath. Unlike their predecessors STACKRIDGE, THE KORGIS have never really been known for their humorous streak, and tracks of the “Dirty Postcards” sort were always rare in the English ensemble’s repertoire, yet here they are, offering the collective’s first full-length record in almost three decades – a belated successor to "This World’s For Everyone" – and informing it with acerbic wit and good-natured attitude. James Warren, John Baker, Al Steel and their coterie of kindred spirits couldn’t find a better moment to serve it up.
Never pulling any pastiche strings to win favor with their audience while keeping the flow playful, the group may quote, half-quote and quarter-quote some of their pop heroes – whether injecting a Billy Joel line into the ebullient “LaLa Land” and placing Brian Wilson’s vibrations here and there, casting a sci-fi Bowie shadow on the platter’s titular cut or alluding to The Fabs whom this ensemble claimed to know something about. However, once you’ve heard the words “heart” and “change” soon after “Kartoon World Overture” (which is a grandiose orchestral take on the title track rather then montage of the album’s main themes), there’s no doubt as to what universe we’re in. It’s the same continuum where “All The Love In The World” and “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” envelope one’s soul, even though “Bringing Back The Spirit Of Love” harks much further through the years, marching all the way to the flawed idealism of the ’60s and unfolding the sweetest, lightest tune one can bask in in the gloomy 2021, over the infectious piano-and-bass bounce and heavenly vocal harmonies before radiant guitar solo and magnetic sloganeering cast doubt on the dream yet instrumentally revisiting the reverie. And if “Back In The Eighties” and “The Ghost Of You” tighten the sonics and lyrics into a synthesizers-driven knot, the results of such a nostalgically lysergic, effervescent exercise are not as patinated as one could imagine – a few fiery riffs and moving groove will burst the temporal bubble soon enough.
So while the magnificently funky, pandemic-inspired psychedelia of “Magic Money Tree” displays the band’s bold front, “All Roads Lead To Rome” bares their inherent vulnerability by disrobing gospel uplift and letting pure emotions pour onto the number’s organ-oiled and choir-caressed surface. Still, the effects-ridden rap of “This Is The Life” – which features Peter Karrie’s blame-laying voice in the middle – wraps soft melody over angry call for perseverance, passes controlled chaos to the piece’s bombastic coda, and sets the scene for “This Is A New Low” which is destined to dissolve didactics in heavy disco. It requires a lot of nerve to render a baroque ballad acidic, yet “Time (Song For Dom)” does just that, with harpsichord and woodwind emphasizing the song’s sarcastic angle until, incited by the roar of Hammond, the drift swaggers forward and gains a belligerent momentum – only to slow down to a waltz again (listen to its demo) and logically evoke the ethereal, out-there “Space” later on to suspend anxiety and chase away the worry.
That’s when the silver tears of “Broken” can flow freely from tender bows and ivories and evaporate, its delivery especially touching in a mix which has the pocket symphony stripped down – which must also be said about “Cartoon World” that sounds most natural in the acoustic version, restoring the specter of the ’70s. So if the folk-informed “The Best Thing You Can Do Is Love Someone” seems a little bit anticlimactic as an album’s finale, this singer-rotating hymn’s translucent lace is bound to make THE KORGIS’ entrance into the twenty-first century a memorable event.