For every thousand saccharine x-factor wannabes, there’s a singer-songwriter of genuine talent, who has spurned the path of the formulaic and the predictable and who, for this very reason, is unlikely to ever bother the charts or garner commercial attention. And so it has always been. Those who view the current crop of chart hits as the nadir of popular music would do well to remember that in 1971 Clive Dunn, backed by a children’s choir, topped the charts with a song called “Grandad, we love you”.
James Pratt is currently carving out an unlikely musical niche in Belo Horizonte, Brazil with his band Babaca Manchild. Known to take to the stage in a red velvet dress and brown sandals, he has come to occupy a position somewhere between Sun-Ra and George Melly. Before leaving these shores for the tropics, he formed one half of the brilliantly unnerving Junior Ministers with comedian H. Anthony Hildebrandt, who could count Tim Minchin as one of their admirers. Prior to that he fronted the Articles, recently remixed for Club Soda Records and started out his musical career in the late 90s in an odd Coventry 5-piece called Lucky Pierre, where he shared vocal duties with the film director J Blakeson. To all these projects Pratt brought uniquely idiosyncratic songwriting, at once able to deliver the most poignant melody and then bend it out of shape with a chord change no one saw coming. This unmastered, unpolished gem is a great example of his work. It’s darkly comic, disquieting and underpinned by an unashamed melodic bent. And there’s a terrifying Aphex Twin style remix dying to get out.