For those who have returned to live music around Liverpool in 2021, the name GADZOOKS! should be a familiar one.
GADZOOKS! (that’s not a rogue exclamation mark, by the way) is the project of cosmic drifter, Ollie Roper. The Newcastle-born troubadour found himself on Merseyside after moving from Manchester during the pandemic and, it has to be said, the city is all the better for his presence.
Taken under the wings of lovely local oddities, Tepid Days and Beija Flo, Roper has his own unique voice in this splendidly absurd sound world, and that voice is clearly showcased on his debut EP, Songs From Your Death Bed.
Recorded and cobbled together over a short period of time, Songs From Your Death Bed isn’t so much a taster of Roper’s offerings, but a collection of beautifully formed songs. The sketches are positively dark, abstract, humorous, and immediate.
“These are not God’s songs, they’re mine,” sings Roper in his distinct, wonky baritone on the polemic opener, Altar. A song that could be construed as a piss take on religion. Perhaps it’s not, but either way, that’s the beauty we find in Roper’s songs; the ambiguity and there’s plenty of it to untangle.
Following on is Vestiges, which has a medieval malice that scratches against the corners of the mind. There’s an air of Bill Callahan stepping into the Woodys for a spot of karaoke about it. Of course, we say this in the best way possible. With a line like, “In the year of light I am just passing by”, it’s not a world away from Callahan, or even the late David Berman.
Like watching a film and unable to turn away from that distributing scene, Hiding is of a similar ilk. A grotesque, off-kilter, declaration that sees Roper possessing a clear talent for the truth.
Which leads into the crackling lo-fi folk-inspired Dog. A brooding tale about burying a dog and moving to New York. Among these abstract musings, Roper delivers his witty, bedraggled charm and it works a treat.
Rancid emphatically draws the curtains on Songs From Your Death Bed (not the burning one’s as referenced in Hiding, either). It’s the finest GADZOOKS! song at this point, too – a poetic sing-speak soiree that sees Roper combing all the finest elements of Songs From Your Death Bed.
Those forever engrossed in the world Fat White Family, Insecure Men and Goat Girl will extend their love to GADZOOKS! Based on Songs From Your Death Bed, it’s not disingenuous to suggest that, in time, Roper may surpass such purveyors of the New-Weird Britain movement. Of course, only time will tell, however this is a fantastic beginning from one of the new unique voices out of Liverpool.
Songs From Your Death Bed is out now via Klof Records. Purchase from Bandcamp.