Misty's Big Adventure, aka the Birmingham Nine, are like a modern day equivalent of Sly And The Family Stone if they'd been brought up on Ansells bitter and soggy Westons pies whilst listening to the Mothers Of Invention, Julian Cope and the Divine Comedy.
It's really hard to put any kind of defining line under the band's look, sound or stance; part of what they're about seems to be just making it up as they go along. So how they actually managed to all fit together in a studio before deciding on recording fifteen tracks, only they can fathom out.
For all their irregular and highly complicated musical arrangements and meanderings, 'The Black Hole' is actually a highly accomplished piece of work that only really suffers from being just a tad too long.
Frontman Grandmaster Gareth sounds like a prime candidate for the starring role if the olde tyme musical hall theatres were to ever make a comeback - in a mushroom'n'absinthe stylee at least. The cracked opera of the title track - think Frank Zappa tracking down the World Of Twist at a lost Mancs convention and you're in the right vicinity - and the delicately eccentric, bizarre night at the proms 'Everything's Odd' sound like epilogues to wave doily-sized union jack flags and burst into the odd verse of 'Land Of Hope And Glory' to.
Elsewhere, the band's musical pedigree comes to the fore, particularly on the Coral-centric 'Never Stops, Never Rests, Never Sleeps' which owes as much to the orchestral delights of a latterday Neil Hannon or even My Life Story. Likewise the psychedelic waltz of 'Microwave', which finds Neil Innes locked in a hallucinogenics laboratory for 36 hours, or the closing epic that is 'The Wising Up Song' which mashes up ragtime blues, ska, music hall and an overall sense of malarkey, ultimately making Misty's sound like the older siblings of Les Incompetents... for five minutes at least.
At other times the band just play it straight down the line - 'I'm Waiting For You' could be the Solihull Strokes while 'Smart Guys Wear Ties' chugs along like Chris Spedding's 'Motorbiking' in a collision with a keep left bollard at the roundabout of the A38 and M6 junction. The main highlight of the record though is undoubtedly 'Evil', which Gareth claims "...is a four letter word, so speak and spell!", a pseudo hip-hop epic which could have been conjured up in the London Palladium with Dre on production duties.
Generally, the record is a mixed bag of influences - almost too many to list in fact - which means that there really is something for everyone, no matter what your preferred taste in music may be. For best results, as far as Misty's Big Adventure are concerned, you really have to see them live, but as a souvenir of what usually is an unforgettable experience, The Black Hole isn't a bad old monologue.
7Dom Gourlay's Score