Vorn: Down For It (Powertools)

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Vorn: Mental Health Issues in Newtown Part II
Vorn: Down For It (Powertools)

In an alternative universe Frank Zappa would be the head of the music school, radio would refuse to play anything by someone who did a photoshoot before writing a song, and Vorn's bent pop would be as big and as popular as Crowded House's.

A member of Gold Medal Famous (the point of whose recent album went right past me), Vorn Colgan -- who has an amusingly obscure bio on his website -- now has about half a dozen albums under his own name in his eccentric, genre-defying "career".

Down For It, released late last year, is a typically refreshing collection where he adapts and adopts from pop, rock, dance, hip-hop and found sounds to create memorable songs which have an emotional directness, but can also be exceptionally funny.

The Family Planning Song here rides the old Fever riff for the first part then becomes something close to swing jazz as he sings of buying prophylactics in case he has sex with a girl, and they're free at Family Planning but it costs 12 bucks to buy them at New World. But it's hard to buy condoms from a pretty girl and so he gets a red face "and what's wrong with me, I'm 33". There's also rocking guitar solo.

But Mental Health Issues in Newtown Part II is an absolutely gorgeous ballad which is made more endearing by his flatten-vowel delivery and the gently pumping electro dance beat which drives it. And there's a mournful violin passage.

The violin also kicks off the melancholy rap of You Don't Have to Hate Yourself to Sleep With Me ("your doing fine on your own"), Formula is a snappy New Wave disco-pop piece made for about $5, and Smashing Up a Television is as from the noisy rocker the title might suggest but a disconcerting piece which rides a soft Kraftwerk/Eno backdrop of elelctronics.

These are not just cleverly arranged songs, but smart and sensitive ones too where Vorn wears his heart on his sleeve with little irony but a wry perspective.

So It's Come to This (where the sole lyrics are "la la la" other some buried child-like voice) is a pretty slice of pop for that radio station in the alternative universe, and Stop Making Bedroom Albums is a formerly supportive now disappointed parent to a child who failed their degree because of spending time in a secondhand record store ("we always thought you'd put your mind to something worthwhile"). Again you feel this is utterly heartfelt and not cynical at all.

An observer of life as much as a participant, Vorn has clearly spent time in secondhand record stores but learned his craft of astute borrowings while there.

Don't miss this if you'd prefer a different universe. He's a rare one . . . and this is too.

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