There’s an online guide to the city of Sheffield with a local heroes section; included is ‘the busker who plays in the underpass going towards Arundel Gate’. That busker is Jody Wildgoose. A veteran at just 26, Jody cuts an enigmatic figure. He left school at 12 to play bass with his band at the time, Various Vegetables. At the age of 13, he inked his first record deal (with Warp Records offshoot label, Gift) and the band traveled up and down the country in a blue transit van supporting the likes of Pulp and Cornershop. However, by Jody’s 16th birthday they decided to hang up their hats and split up.
For the next three years, Jody would go busking everyday, except on Sundays. It was during this period that he began to hone his craft, and it is evident from the artists whose songs he would cover as to where the classic songwriting nature of his music comes from – The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Dylan, The Stones, Costello, Marvin Gaye, Hendrix, Pink Floyd. However, it was American mavericks like Butthole Surfers and particularly lo-fi brothers Ween who inspired to him to get his own ideas down on to tape. In the late 90’s, armed with a Tascam 4-track from the mid 80’s he recorded a huge collection of songs, instrumentals and oddities. In 2004, some of these recordings were compiled together by Jody and Sketchbook to form his debut album – the critically acclaimed ‘lost’ psychedelic lo-fi tapestry, ‘Lovely White Teeth’.
‘Afterlife’ is the follow up to ‘Lovely White Teeth’ and was written and recorded during 2005. Astonishingly, Jody recorded it in his attic and played just about all of the instruments himself (he is not very practiced on the steel drums, piano, brass and strings). It is a much more realised and focused album than his debut, showing a greater ambition and maturity in songwriting and production. “I wanted to make the record classic, yet contemporary sounding. Something I could hear bright colours flying around in, like ‘Hunky Dory’, ‘Warhol’ or ‘Let It Bleed’”, and ‘Afterlife’ is certainly that.
Full of techincolor textures, ‘Afterlife’ is one of those truly magical records that takes its listener on a trip down country byways and busy highways and manages to evoke an array of emotions. From acoustic songs like ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Stereo’ that sound like they have existed forever (and which showcase Wildgoose’s classic songwriting) to the ‘Ghost Town’ meets Ted Bundy inspired ska oddity, ‘Oh Ted’. From scuzzy electro number, ‘M Head’ to the dirty garage pop of ‘Pop Music’ and The Beach Boys meets Lennon title track, ‘Afterlife’. However, the highlight and centerpiece of the album is perhaps ‘Misty Morning Sunrise’, a sun-drenched slice of acid pop and a classic in the making. ‘Afterlife’ also highlights Jody’s special and sometimes surreal lyrics - “Eminem was a bit of a bastard, but then again you wouldn’t have it any other way. You know you love him and you want to hug him, you want to tell him that it’s okay to be gay. I hope he wouldn’t ever be offended, I bought his CD and I thought I heard him say, just say whatever it is you want to” from ‘Punk Rock’.
While ‘Afterlife’ echoes past classics and shares space with an up-to-date musical eccentricity and elasticity such as Beck, Super Furry Animals and Flaming Lips, it is a truly unique and original record from one of the most fascinating minds making music in the UK today. Jody has fulfilled the promise of his early lo-fi recordings and made a modern psychedelic pop masterpiece.