Review of In Debt To Album by Napoleon IIIrd

Napoleon IIIrd
In Debt To
Album Review

Napoleon IIIrd In Debt To Album

"Listen to what I say.Average is not the best you can do".

And so says James Mabbett, aka Napoleon IIIrd. What's more, if the eleven compositions that make up 'In Debt To' are anything to go by - we'll ignore the two interlude-style introductions "A" and "B" for now - then the word average clearly doesn't even register in his dictionary, let alone dominate it.

Since his initial foray into music as part of Little Japanese Toy (embryonic Leeds-based combo, debut release was a split single with Dance To The Radio/Forward Russia figurehead Whiskas' then combo Les Flames!) and their subsequent break-up, Mabbett adopted the persona Napoleon IIIrd and started on a project that could initially be described as bedsit folk-driven electronica but over the past year or so, has developed into one of the most thought-provokingly original solo artists anywhere you care to mention in the world today.

If in doubt, go see one of his shows. Not that anyone should be anything other than impressed - or even blown away - by the contents of his long-awaited, debut long player.

Current single 'This Is My Call To Arms' opens the record in a fanfare of trumpets and encompasses everyone from Beck to the less salubrious musings of Add N To (X), so much so that it's sometimes easy to forget that everything you hear on the record was written and performed by just one individual.

'Defibrillator', with its two-step beats and off-kilter vocals coupled with the unforgettable chorus "I love this city but I won't walk home at night" you may also be familiar with, its inclusion on the recent On The Bone Records compilation having gained several plaudits from both critics and consumers alike.

Elsewhere, 'The Casual Terrorist vs. The International Board Of Wishing' and 'One Song Before Bed To Three Four' both leave their mark in different ways, the former with its almost Super Furries-esque sonic berating while the latter acts as an end-of-the-ending comedown, a time to relax and put those feet up. Or maybe Napoleon IIIrd's tape player just wound itself down to the final loop?

There's even - gasp - a love song here written especially for his girlfriend, 'Kate's Song', which is as surprising as it is heartening in that not everything in Napoleon IIIrd's repertoire revolves around protest songs (which essentially the majority of these are).

Standing out from its admittedly high quality associates though is the unmistakeable clatter of 'Hit Schmooze For Me', the anthem for anyone who's ever experienced 9 to 5 drudgery anywhere and number one in a million hearts if not charts up and down the land.

All in all, we should be thankful that Napoleon IIIrd doesn't consider his day job to be his life, otherwise what else would he have to write about? Plenty it seems, and as a collection of obscure sounds, off the cuff soundbites, and futuristic pop songs, 'In Debt To' really does have a touch of the post-millennium 'Pet Sounds' about it.

Indeed, every home should own a copy of this record, and mark my words, by this time next year, they will, as 'In Debt To' is without doubt the most essential purchase you'll make by a solo artist over the next twelve months.

Truly magnificent.


Dom Gourlay

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