Space Siren – Mr Wagner Please Give Us a Call

...this record creates an imaginary world of its own, conjuring up spells at will, hell-bent on a strange kind of enchantment. There are some great songs on here.


Listening to this LP as a vinyl release is an instructive experience, and one you should try it. But before explaining why, I’ll say now that this is a tough, brave and spiky record, and, like some ingenious Heath Robinson contraption, living out its playing time on its own terms. Whether listeners can allow that is – in these impatient times - will be a big test for the record and indeed the band.  But as I write this, I will put my cards on the table and say that Mr Wagner Please Give Us a Call is easily the best LP release in Holland of 2012 so far.

But why vinyl? Well if only to enjoy a conceit of the band’s own making.  Contrary to what seems to be standard practice these days neither side opens with a pleaser. Instead we get two tracks – I Think I Saw An Elephant and It’s Your Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To - that are there as puzzles, membership forms to join the club. The listener is pitched into a maelstrom of melodramatically dischordant noise that only serves to disorientate. To be honest these two tracks are the keys to whether you give the LP a chance or not.  Rather like the opening storm scene in the Tempest they ensure that it takes time to get your bearings and find out where you’ve arrived.  You might not enjoy it at first but stopping is for quitters… (Oh I warn you now, listening to on headphones the first time as I did can have you running to check if your record player is set up right).

And just like Shakespeare’s play, this record creates an imaginary world of its own, conjuring up spells at will, hell-bent on a strange kind of enchantment. There are some great songs on here. Corno Zwetsloot is insistent he’s made a pop record and with tracks like Girlfriends Who Don’t Like their Boyfriends and Who Makes Me Try? you can see his point. These songs are great exponents of High Gothicke pop:  their soft dreamy vocal lines are aided by lush sensual tones and textures, expertly balanced against bristling and brutal metallic counterpoints that are in turn backed up by an incessant, effervescent rhythm section.

It’s a dreamy record on the whole, boasting a strong filmic quality. At times I think Mr Wagner Please Give Us a Call could claim to be a psychedelic soundtrack to a weird future-past movie: The Crane Song or I Will Send You Home are gloopy, ghostly lullabies, pastoral in spirit, metallic and weird in sounds, existing as stations on some ghostly musical tube line that runs between the 1890s the 1970s and now.

Reading back this review I realise I may have made the task of listening to this LP sound like some dreadful exam. Believe me, it isn’t, it’s a truly great LP, and one that allows the patient and soulful listener an enormous amount of space to dream in. But what a thing to have write in an LP review, people used to expect to be transported elsewhere – to suspend disbelief. What a weird kind of listening culture has sprung up over the last decade or so. One that doesn’t want to engage with anyone or anything, one that prefers from a safe distance to quickly and painlessly formulate personal opinions without the drudge of gaining experience, a process moreover that is seen as a waste of time. Records like this show the futility of that course for sure.

So be brave, be patient and make up your own minds. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.