If you were to write “Mozart’s Mini Mart” off as some kind of “novelty” record, you’d be wrong. Underneath all the seventies livery and potentially impenetrable wordplay, there are some superb songs here
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Lawrence Hayward was 13 in 1974. He liked it so much, he decided to stay there – or at least, that’s what you might think when you listen to “Mozart’s Mini Mart” for the first time. Only the drum machines and a token nod towards Rap culture on “I’m Dope” hint at anything beyond Punk Rock here. All the elements of Pop music that “serious” musicians couldn’t wait to ignore, Lawrence has scooped up, stuck them in his satchel and then lovingly re-assembled in 2018. Throw in a couple of the most unlikely cover versions you’ll ever hear and you’ve got a recipe for a hot mess, right? So why does “Mozart’s Mini Mart” sound so great, then?
You have to give Lawrence his due – he’s had a go at everything, from earnest, jangly Indie with Felt, post ironic, pseudo Glam with Denim and now unapologetic seventies Pop with Go Kart Mozart. That’s a heck of a CV. With GKM it seems, Lawrence has come home to the music that first inspired him to begin a fascinating, if rocky road towards superstardom. His current band (well, it’s mainly Lawrence and whoever he can afford…) dispenses with any notions of “cool” and does exactly what it likes. In an increasingly market driven music industry, you can’t say that for everyone. Or anyone.
If you were around in the seventies, you’ll listen to “Mozarts Mini Mart” with either a wry smile or a look of horror on your face. Analog synths, pre-World War II drum machines and a selection of melodies you last heard on a “Top of the Pops” album you bought for 89p from Woolworths, 45 years ago, abound. The opener – a bouncy, synth and vocoder tour-de-force called “Anagram of We Sold Apes” sets out the stall quite nicely, leading neatly into “When You’re Depressed” – a relentlessly upbeat glam rocker that Alvin Stardust would have grabbed with both his studded leather gloved hands. It’s at this point you realise that this is going to be one the best records of the year.
In spite of the “niche” subject matter (you really need to be a Birmingham born, fifty-something to get the most from this record) this is Lawrence’s strongest collection of songs to date. Bizarrely, he’s thrown in a couple of cover songs which would make even the most post-modern pop music nerd raise an eyebrow or two. “Big Ship” was written in the sixties by Raymond Froggatt – a musician who is legendary in the West Midlands of the UK and pretty much unknown everywhere else. It was a hit for Cliff Richard in 1969. Yes, that Cliff Richard – the “Mistletoe and Wine”/”Millennium Prayer”, Cliff Richard. Then you get “A New World” written by Roger Whittaker – a man who ruled family entertainment, TV shows in the early seventies and was renowned for his whistling prowess. In Lawrence’s world, Cliff and Rog are way cooler than Lou Reed. Maybe he’s right.
If you were to write “Mozart’s Mini Mart” off as some kind of “novelty” record, you’d be wrong. Underneath all the seventies livery and potentially impenetrable wordplay, there are some superb songs here. “Facing the Scorn of Tomorrow’s Generation” and “Zelda’s in the Spotlight” are beautifully crafted pop songs, written by a man who had a clear goal and achieved it in spades.
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Cast your mind back to when you were thirteen. Daydreaming in Geography lessons, you’d plan out albums you were going to make when you got your band together. You’d design covers, write track listings and make notes of all the cool and impressive things you’d say to the journalists from Fab 208, Sounds and Melody Maker who would flock to your flat in Knightsbridge. All while some grey bearded teacher droned on about oxbow lakes. Unfortunately, you grew up, went to University and got a proper job. Lawrence didn’t. He’s still sketching out album covers in the back of an exercise book. The difference is, he gets to make those albums and the good news is, that this one might be his best yet.
“Mozart’s Mini Mart” is out now via Cherry Red Records