It feels as though there has been something of a spotlight on Lawrence of late, what with the ‘Lawrence of Belgravia’ film and various Felt books. I understand there have been several features in the music press too. This is as it should be, for Lawrence’s is one of the great Pop stories; his records some of the greatest, period.
There is something of a received wisdom amongst many that the peak of Lawrence’s creative output is carefully bound within the decade of Felt. I think there’s a mistake to be made there. I should know. I’ve made it myself. For whilst I immediately adored the ‘Back In Denim’ record, it took me a great deal longer to understand the brilliance of ‘Denim On Ice’. The ‘Novelty Rock’ concept was difficult to warm to at first, particularly in the light of the artful legacy of the Felt years. In more recent times, however, I have come to adore the Denim records even more than the Felt ones. If pressed at gun-point to choose between the entire Felt and Denim catalogues I would wriggle, squirm and evade the issue for as long as possible before plumping for Denim. That will sound like sacrilege to some and unreasonably perverse awkwardness to others. True nonetheless.
What then of Go-Kart Mozart in that equation? Well, I admit that with the release of ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ the position of that particular Lawrence incarnation in the pecking order is far from easy to place. Certainly those who cling to the theory that the Lawrence timeline from Felt to Denim to Go-Kart Mozart is one of diminishing returns will find that ‘Hot Dog Streets’ at least forcibly challenges such a perception and at best turns it, if not on its head, certainly sends it sideways with some quizzical glances.
Personally I think ‘Hot Dog’ is easily the most accessible and accomplished Lawrence record since ‘Denim On Ice’ (the tragically aborted hit-that-never-was ‘Summer Smash’ aside). In its way it’s up there with ‘Back In Denim’ as a peculiar protest record; a collection of songs that exists almost entirely within its own carefully mythologised context. Complete with sleeve-notes.
It is certainly every bit as artful as anything Felt recorded. It just happens to be painted in gaudier colours from an altogether seedier and stranger palette. It’s a Pop Art picture of Dorian Gray that has been caught mid way between glamorous Jeff Koons’ sheen and ruinous syphilitic destruction. By turns euphoric, unsettling, touching and sneering (often flipping from one to the other on a whip-quick whim), the record makes for a peculiarly accurate snapshot of our times that may yet prove to be both as of its time and timeless as The Sex Pistols’ debut was at the tail of nineteen seventies.
Lawrence has (in)famously stated that he always believed he could (and indeed would) be a bona fide Pop Star. So is ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ the record to make that happen, or will it do little more than cement his already established reputation as something of a cult oddity? In a parallel world it’s of course the former. But then in that parallel universe it’s a moot point because he is already bigger than Jesus. Or at least John Lennon.
Sadly in the harsh light of reality one doubts that ‘On The Hot Dog Streets’ will allow Lawrence to trouble ‘The One Show’ again, but you never know. Stranger things have happened. Most already to Lawrence.
'On The Hot Dog Streets' is released on June 25th. Pre-order the double-vinyl set here, or the CD here. Limited numbers signed by Lawrence. And remember: "Get dirt on your needle with West Midlands Records"!