The Magic Sponge: The Cure Connection

As an avid watcher of London’s The Magic Sponge for some years now, it was with piqued intrigue when the sardonic supergroup’s new ‘Countrification’ recording dropped through my letterbox. One time The Cure and Depeche Mode producer Dave M Allen - responsible for The Cure's fabulous synth-pop purple patch through the mind to late nineties, and also for the best of Neneh Cherry's ouvre - had decided to steer the good ship Sponge away from songwriter Perry Richards witty odes of postmodern life such as ‘I’m Addicted to Ebay’ and ‘That’s Just What Girls Do’ westwards, this time to delve ostrich-like down through the sand of the very unfamiliar territory of Arizona et al.

The Magic Sponge have gone neo-country, and it sounds wonderful.

The Magic Sponge's Modus Operandi

The Magic Sponge are a very noughties studio project, shying away from the live stage as presumably the demands of modern life, and in Richards’ case acting as a landlord to the new wave great and good, make the desire to deliver Will Self/Bill Hicksian musical thoughts on the hilariously hypocritical nature of contemporary existence of greater importance. Or maybe they’re just lazy. Either way, Richards’ songcraft and David M Allen’s snappy direction as ever make for compulsive listening.

The Magic Sponge's 'Countrification'

On ‘Countrification’, chanteuse Melissa Jo Heathcote takes the metaphorical centre stage and shines as the confrontational-yet-oblique cipher of the three tracks on offer.

Lead track 'My Daddy and Me' sees her crystal clear voice soar, but it's 'You Can't Take Me' that really impresses with its immaculate country-pop songcraft. At a time where we hear that ex Chancellor of the Exchequor George Osbourne, the man who pretty much single-handedly delivered the economics of austerity to the UK for most of the past decade has become editor of London's main news organ the Evening Standard, the trans-atlantic sonic joy of the Sponge's 'Countrification' is balm indeed.