Those of you familiar with jangly-pop-genius Martin Newell’s work will be delighted with the gems on here. And despite Jumble Sale being a collection of odds-and-ends spanning 1975-present, those just discovering this treasure trove of English songwriting will no doubt be impressed by the caliber of this man’s work. For even an assortment picked off the cutting room floor by the Cleaners is better than most new albums you’ll hear this year.
Opening track “Scarecrow Hair and Saucer-Eyed” proves the point. Classic Newell chord changes ring and breezily roll, their major key ride juxtaposing and meshing nicely with the more poignant tale of the lyrics as the narrator encounters himself on the street one day sporting the titular look and knows he needs to rethink his wont of “missing days” from “chasing rainbows”. “A Bluebeat Kid” is the darker new wave of 1979, as it happens, the year it was recorded. The song hails from Newell’s Stray Trolleys project from the time, a record well-worth seeking out. Up next “Red Guitars & Tambourines” is one of the most perfect songs ever written about the rock n’ roll dreams of youth, or even of “pretty boys who would not leave their teens”. Unhappy with the earlier versions that somehow leaked out on My Back Wages (and later Extra Wages), Newell decided to re-record this anthem properly this year, changing the key and tightening up the tune (do yourself a favor though and seek out the original, there is a gorgeous “woah-oh-woahoh” in its outro).
Punchy upbeat “The Lunatic Lantern”, Eurovision-pastiche “Destiny”, the jazz-tinged piano optimism of “That Kind Of A Day” – most of the songs on Jumble Sale are so good they leave you wondering why they haven’t seen the light of day until now. There’s even a Morrissey piss-take with “The Luxury Of Misery”. On “Hope” Newell once again beautifully combines positivity and melancholy. 2003’s “Moonraking” is also a treat. Nods to Bond as implied, but so much than that. Its dreaming-at-your-window minor key verse transports up into the twilight sky for a much more lazily expansive view come the chorus, the “it’s all we ever play” twist at section’s end is superb. A great lost glam piano ballad.
We award Jumble Sale the Mercurial Girl Prize for the album most like a Martin Newell album released this year.
HURRY – LISTEN – CLEANERS FROM VENUS