Troy Kingi – Year Of The Ratbags And Their Musty Theme Songs

Troy Kingi hits album six of his ambitious 1O 1O 1O Series, (10 albums in 10 years in 10 genres). Year of the Ratbags and their Musty Theme Songs takes us to 1984.

This time its a total immersion in the new wave synth pop and electronica disco soul train dance of the Eighties.  Some of the defining sounds of the time.

Obsessive attention to detail with the use of authentic musical instruments and studio equipment of the time. Kingi produces, along with longtime colleague TeMatera Smith. To help recreate the period, Welshman living in New Zealand Greg Haver (Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Feelers, Kimbra, the Simpsons) is also on board as producer.

1984 was the Chinese year of the ratbag. Tom Wolfe began his serialised first version of Bonfire of the Vanities in Rolling Stone magazine. It was the time of material wealth, stock market traders, the cult of the corporates until the bubble burst in 1987.

It is also Kingi’s year of birth, and being the musical explorer that he is across many styles, he would have absorbed and imprinted the sounds from that time. As children do in the crucial first five years. That’s why the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are like DNA to us late Boomers.

Stevie With a Smile is a bright happy little singalong which is a bit of misdirection on the opening track, before the big production numbers hits. Get your frown and turn it upside down.

Paparazzo S.J follows, released as a single prior. Has the sheen of Eighties new wave power pop like a Duran Duran, let’s say. A shaggy dog story of a fan, born in 1984, fantasizing about their idols through the captured images of paparazzies.

The video of this song features a hilarious montage of iconic movie scenes from the era. Kingi has talked about Quentin Tarantino’s idea of making genre period movies. Which has been a major influence on his own Ten project.

There is a thematic link, and therefore a story in the album. His previous folk album, Black Sea Golden Ladder had that too.

The trials and tribulation of a musician trying to make it big and, in the process, finding his soul is at stake.

Pocket For Your Petty Cash J.W has a sparkling soul disco sound with a great vocal performance by Kingi. Born into your media storm/ Follow the calling of the silver screen/ Not a pocket for your petty cash/ Don’t need your left-overs. The obsessive and narcissistic nature of the anthems of the time are addressed. Like Madonna’s Material Girl.

Ray of Sunshine R.C. They took my soul for their own ray of sunshine.

Authenticity T.P has great smoky jazz saxophone solos and smooth soul vocals harking back to Luther Vandross. It also includes a curious spoken monologue which seems to be a parody on pretentious haute nouveau cuisine. Apple and parsley pie/ Fourth of July/ With vinegar ice-cream. The song is tasty, brothers and sisters.

Freaky A.K is a reasonable if formulaic synth dance pop tune. There is a hilarious lyric, we never had a clue/ Just a bunch of bad reviews. Towards the end you hear traces of Bowie’s Space Oddity.

What is the Elephant in the Room M.Z? The song has some of the smooth grooves of Heaven 17 and also their politics. His future, computer/ Distraction, no interaction/ We’ll fight the tide/ To be glorified. Kingi also addresses Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four which brings this album smack into the glorious present. Which does feel dystopian.

It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. Art can play an important role to help the human soul here. As it has done in the past. Beatlemania followed the October missile crisis and the assassination of Kennedy.

No Reason to Guess M.G is the best vocal performance on the album, a real showcase. The whole package could compete with the best of Prince. And also, Rick James just to name drop an artist who deserves wider appeal.

There are some fillers on the album. There is plenty of great idiosyncratic Troy Kingi music here and it rewards repeated listening. I have no idea what the two letter initials mean after every song title.

Rev Orange Peel

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