Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Sun 4 Mar
words: MAB JONES
Momus, in Greek mythology, is the god of mockery and satire. A thoroughly modern deity, he poked fun at Zeus for being a womaniser, Aphrodite for wearing crap sandals, and Hepheastus for making men as they are (which could be considered self-mockery, I suppose). Eventually, he was kicked out of Olympus for being critical and (according to the lusty Zeus) just a little bit jealous.
Is this Momus jealous as well? Well, yes he is, but at least he admits it. A song about sexual jealousy in people aged 17-24 is nothing if not to the point. As with so many of the songs, it is a quirky collision of uptempo and downbeat; a serious, solemn subject set to a coltish cadence. There is mockery, also: “the way to get rich is to stitch people up / The way to get laid is to hang around drunks” croons the singer, swinging his skinny body about the stage. But, as with the Greek god, it becomes clear that this is as much a mockery of his own mores as our own less-es. Like the best of clowns, Momus points first at himself, and the image that overlooks the stage – a slightly pompous self-portrait – is, in time to the words, allowed to swim, skip, split, and separate; the facade we/the singer normally wear is, quite literally, permitted to slip. “Everybody wears this stupid grin” exclaims Momus, pulling at his own mouth. The Greek god is often portrayed as lifting a mask from his face, and that is what this Momus manages as well.
This was an in-the-moment peformance that poked playfully at our expectations. Momus sprang down from the stage at several points, and roundly encouraged us to remember the fact of our own deaths. A song that spoke about alopecia was set to a cha-cha beat, and the message seemed to be that yes, there is old age, sickness, and death (concerns unsurprising for a man who lives in Buddhist Japan) – but, in the meantime, let’s dance! Sadly, the audience seemed disinclined to do so, and some of us were reduced to toe-tapping and swaying in our seats.
In short (because life is the same), this was a set of darkly funny, occasionally tender, brilliantly inventive songs by a charismatic and idiosyncratic artist in a first visit to Wales that will hopefully not be his last.