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Gorky's sweet weirdness

Wednesday, Oct 20 1999
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Photo by Pat PopeGORKY'S ZYGOTIC MYNCI Spanish Dance Troupe (Beggar's Banquet)

"We don't live together in a big mushroom or anything," insisted Gorky's Zygotic Mynci front man Euros Childs when I interviewed him about 1997's Barafundle, his band's last U.S. release. I'm still not sure I believe him; after all, "tiny," "lovely" and "Welsh" are three words that invariably come to mind whenever the subject of Gorky's pops up, and rare is the reviewer who hasn't used the phrase "elfin magic" at least once to describe the quartet's beguiling ways. There's nothing grandiose, epic or remotely wide-screen about Gorky's Zygotic Mynci; their lyrics, when decipherable, revolve around small matters of personal concern, and their music radiates all the gentle tranquillity of a rural family whiling away the evening on ancient homemade instruments. Compared to the arena-ready anthems offered up by fellow Welshmen the Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers, Gorky's records might as well be made in a secluded glade by industrious elves.

Alas, there appears to have been a bit of trouble in Tiny Town. Mercury, Gorky's previous label, grew tired of waiting for the band's indie buzz to blossom into Top 10 hits and pulled the plug before Gorky 5, the follow-up to Barafundle, could even come out in the States. Bloodied but unbowed, the resilient band pooled its resources and recorded Spanish Dance Troupe, an album that, for all its unbridled loveliness, sounds like it served as an extremely therapeutic experience for its creators. "Desolation Blues," which slyly sandwiches the record's most accessible melody between Beefheartian guitar-and-horn freak-outs, tells of "writing songs held so dear, that no one wants to hear," while the mariachi-inflected title track laments "playing a tree trunk in a forest of fools," and dreams of running away to a place where "wine, dance and music is the name of the game." In other words, somewhere other than an executive boardroom.

Happily, the various industry-related hassles haven't affected the band's music, which remains as defiantly idiosyncratic as ever. "Faraway Eyes" could be a forgotten early-'70s country classic done by Teenage Fanclub, and "Poodle Rockin'" (which actually rocks rather nicely) sounds like the Syd Barrett­era Pink Floyd jumping in a time machine to cover Bowie's "Diamond Dogs." But mostly, Spanish Dance Troupe just sounds like Gorky's Zygotic Mynci -- 15 tracks of sweetly hummable weirdness, clocking in at just a hair over 37 minutes. Share it with the elf or wood nymph of your choice.

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Gorky's Zygotic Mynci

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