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Sunshine Superman 

Louis Philippe's music for libertines

Wednesday, Jun 16 1999
Photo by Nickolai Wesolowski
A Kiss in the Funhouse (Le Grand Magistery)

Louis Philippe is, as the English like to say, rather on the "wet" side. A multitalented composer, instrumentalist and producer with a well-stamped passport (born in Normandy, lives in London, vacations in Greece, much-loved in Tokyo), Monsieur Philippe has spent the better part of the past 15 years crafting the sort of records that make Pet Sounds­era Beach Boys sound like Judas Priest by comparison. Assisted by such notable pals as ex-XTC guitarist Dave Gregory and Sean O'Hagan of the High Llamas, Philippe has made several albums uniformly filled with summery, intricately arranged pop songs that are as light as cotton candy and every bit as sticky.

But to merely describe (or write off) Louis Philippe's music as fey, ornate pop would be to do grave injustice to both composer and compositions. A Kiss in the Funhouse, a 23-track compilation of stuff recorded during this decade for Japan's Trattoria label, could well have been titled Music for Libertines. Even ostensibly downbeat songs like "Sweet Dollar Bill" and "Jealous" are so ridiculously redolent of sunshine, good wine and semiconscious sex that you feel certain his angst -- and, by extension, yours -- will pass within moments. Others, like "Every Day Gone By" and "Ripples in the River," exude the same sort of dreamy romance and lite-soul melodiousness previously heard on the Style Council's finer singles. (And if you don't think the Style Council actually had any good singles, you are hereby advised to stay well away from the present collection.)

Unlike Momus, his prodigiously talented labelmate, Louis Philippe manages to put his own hazily decadent vibe across without seeming arch or silly. Perhaps the secret lies in his voice, a high-pitched, androgynous croon that occasionally flutters in and out of pitch like a mildly intoxicated sea gull; it may put you off entirely, yet you'll never doubt his sincerity for even a moment. But if you can hang with his vocal quirks, and you dig your pop on the Continental side, A Kiss in the Funhouse should make the perfect soundtrack for a long, hot summer. We are going to have one, aren't we?

Johnny Anus, 1960 - 1999

Somebody's poisoning me
Could it be me?
--"Your Poison or Mine"
We can recover
We can survive
Why are we dying?
--"Time Will Tell"
Take your habits and cough them up . . .
Hook a hole, then you stop
--"Plant a Seed in My Head"
So many of Johnny Anus' lyrics seem prophetic in the aftermath of his death in Silver Lake last week from a heroin overdose. Yet for all his caustic examinations of social and self-destruction, there is also the saving grace of sincerely optimistic gallows humor: "Ride it out/Things can only get better."

Bill Henderson, 27, and Johnny Anus (John Orloff), 38, were found dead in the latter's apartment on Wednesday, June 9, by Keith Morris after the two hadn't shown up to work at Millie's Restaurant. Sometime the previous night, Henderson, who played in the bands Menacing UFO Gang and Manifold, overdosed accidentally and died, which apparently caused the grief-stricken Orloff to write a remorseful suicide note and overdose as well. A shrine of candles, flowers and photos now lies outside Millie's, where the pair's shell-shocked friends console each other with stories about the notoriously fun-loving and warmhearted employees.

Orloff's death came just days after his band Anus the Menace, which included bassist/brother Mike Orloff and drummer Phil Colon, played a solid reunion show at Al's Bar. Despite the silly band name, Anus the Menace was not a novelty punk band, but instead fused scabrously arty elements of Gang of Four, the Minutemen, Joy Division and other post-punk bands with Orloff's jagged, dissonant guitar playing and poetic minimalisms. His best songs, as collected on two Flipside Records CDs and various compilations, include "It's Such a Beautiful Day," a Flipperesque look at a Mr. Rogers' neighborhood gone awry, and the more-angry-than-funny "I Wish I Was Gay (So You Would Hate Me)." Born November 9, 1960, in Los Angeles, Orloff, who also played in Corpus Delecti, was separated from his wife, Suzy, when he died. He is now interred in Old Russian Molokan Cemetery.

An informal wake was held on Friday, June 12, at Charlie Hutchinson's (Popdefect) house. A memorial concert for Orloff and Henderson will be held on Wednesday, June 23, at Al's Bar, downtown, with Popdefect, Keith Morris' Midget Handjob and brother Mike Orloff's other group, Gasoline.

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