on May 29, 2001
Joe Meek and the Blue Men's I Hear a New World is astonishing. I was expecting a laughable, novelty collection of late-50s beat music with zappy noises, but it's not that at all. It's closer to Brian Eno's ambient experiments than anything on contemporary pop radio. It's frequently gorgeous, sometimes very silly, but always interesting, not least because of the mystique that surrounds it - at the time, only parts of it were released, and as Joe Meek's reputation grew following his suicide in 1967, it was hailed as something of a great lost masterpiece by people who hadn't heard it. The title track is eerie. It's supposed to set the tone for a journey into space, but with lines such as 'I hear a new world / haunting me / how can I tell / what's in store for me', it's hard not to think of Joe Meek's eventual mental disintegration. The photograph of him on the sleeve- frightened, hunted-looking - doesn't help. The album has a loose theme of a trip to the moon to witness the strange beings that inhabit the satellite, such as the fun-loving Globbots and their despondent neighbours, the Sarooes. It was intended as a showcase for Meek's production talents, and uses a strange mixture of effects, found sounds, varispeeded voices and Hawaiian guitar to produce a set of ambient songs which wouldn't have been out of place on Chris Morris' Blue Jam. It's mostly instrumental, although some of the songs feature high-pitched chanting to represent the inhabitants of the moon. Entry of the Globbots and March of the Dribcots, in particular, would not be out of place on the soundtrack to a children's television programme, and the whole album has a wide-eyed innocence that seems at odds with the seedy pop scene of the time. Standout tracks include The Bublight, Valley of No Return and Valley of the Saroos, all of which combine soaring, beautiful tunes with an eclectic, fragile-sounding production. Whether due to the limitations of the recording tape or because Meek wanted it that way, the music sounds airy, with lots of bass and lots of treble and not much in the middle, as if you're listening to it over a radio that isn't quite tuned in. Magnetic Field starts off with a series of pulses before turning into shambolic folk music, but with Hawaiian guitar. It's important to understand that this isn't some amusing novelty record. Bits of it are genuinely excellent and work well today - The Bublight, in particular, is basically Brian Eno's Apollo, but in 1960. As you listen to it, remember that Revolver, never mind Sergeant Pepper, was still seven years away - coinciding, as the sleeve puts it, with Meek's 'final career move'. Elsewhere on the album there's a short film clip of Meek in the studio, convinced that his attempts at founding a record label were squashed by the majors, and a lengthy monologue in which Meek - softly-spoken, halting - describes his life and works for use in radio interviews.
on January 27, 2003
Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson drop acid in a recording studio on the dark side of the moon, and the resulting session yields something that sounds very much like this long lost Joe Meek album. "I Hear A New World" was a more literal title than you might think, as the voices in his head were soon to drown out the sounds of the Muse for the tragically doomed Meeks. This mostly instrumental set (clocking in at just around 30 minutes) is a surprisingly cohesive work, making for a haunting, mysterious listening experience. The sped-up "Chipmunks" vocals on a few selections are the only tell-tale trappings of cheesy 60's studio trickery, otherwise the album sounds quite contemporary. Informed music fans will intuit snippets of templates here and there for the Residents, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream or even more recent offerings from Radiohead and The Flaming Lips. The fact that Meeks bore a spooky physical resemblance to director David Lynch (especially on this particular album cover) certainly adds fuel to his already eerie aura. The 2001 reissue also offers an extra half hour or so of a telephone interview with Meeks recorded in the early 60's that is sure to fascinate afficiandos.
on September 24, 2001
The Joe Meek story has been well documented, so to cut to the chase, it must be stated that this is truly one remarkable disc. Originally released in 1960 as essentially a novelty record to demonstrate stereo possibilities with sound, Meek recorded this as his kind of "tribute" to space travel and his general obsession with all things unearthly.
Whether he knew it or not, he also came up with something that sounds frighteningly ahead of its time. If you were to mix up the keyboard absurdities of the Residents, the layered pop harmonies of mid/late '60s Beach Boys, the ambient hum of '70s Eno and the spacey churn of Germany's Can, it may sound a little like Meek's Blue Men. Pretentious art students have tried years to achieve that goal, so give Meek his credit for stumbling across such incredible sonics way before anyone even thought of such a combination. My only complaint is that the entire album barely stretches to half an hour: a 3-CD set would've hit the spot just fine.
on April 6, 2006
Joe Meek was an eccentric English record producer who has a cult following nowadays. He produced this album in 1960, but it never came out. It's a concept album about life on the moon. It is an instrumental album, other than the title song, which has lyrics. It is a very strange album, telling the stories of the beings who live on the moon through oddball instrumentals. Despite all the weirdness, it's actually a pleasant album to listen to. If you are interested in music that's a little "out there", you should give it a listen.