Mouse Eat Mouse: Mair Licht (Hackpen Records, 2006)
MOUSE EAT MOUSE were little more than an almost humourous band name until I came across one of the free disks that come with desperate monthly magazines; this one included the title track of their debut album. After obtaining Mair Licht through an internet auction site (it wasn’t easy to come by) my knowledge of the act remains vague. The renowned listomaniac site Discogs.com offers up an act called MouseEatTongue, while Google, other than directing me to their largely unused Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp pages, suggests sites speculating about the dietary habits of rodents.
What is obvious is that this Scottish outfit utilise fully the traditional Scots vernacular, and adopted that famously dour Caledonian sense of humour. They are nothing like anything else, and though some Greenock Morton fans have compared them to Ivor Cutler, it seems a risible comparison.
Porky’s particular choice cut is Aye and Ay, a tale of idealistic activists who climb the “scliddery pole” in the British Labour Party and become part of a long-running centrist government.
“They supported CND, aye and ay unilaterally. They were the anti-nuclear girls and boys … they joined the perty, they paid their dues and through the ranks rose like the chosen few.”
Then, CD Shade’s voice takes a sterner tone as he relates the unhappy yet inevitable tale of those who harbour ambitious hopes of office rather than stick to their principles.
“Quit minds set in, morally fled fae CND; NATO, and then the Iraqi bloody wars. They supported WMD, aye and ay, quite cynically.” *
This is in a way untypical of the album, and the band itself, being as sprightly as any Glasgow indie/ pop band, and the same ouvre marks Red and Black which begins with a grinding guitar, and an out of tune violin. These and the title track mingle among spoken word tracks, poetry, melodic folk and, quite frankly the incomprehensible.
La Le La/ Iron Mountain is an uneasy listen but ultimately rewarding with Shade raging, in the voice of a patient university lecturer, that “In the scam culture o’ misappropriation, illusionary capitalist morals are aligned to the legislative elite/ La le la, le la.”
While Mair Licht, as I’ve alluded to, remains a cult classic, it was later noted by the Bluesbunny site as “One of the finest Scottish albums of all time … so good, and so over the top, that a rational man could doubt that it was ever borne of the deadly dullness that pervades our Scottish musical ‘culture’.” .
That is to suggest that Scottish music lacks quality but while the writer isn’t far off the target in their elevation of this particular work, Caledonia has provided me with some of the most fabulous records, by Josef K, Aztec Camera, Franz Ferdinand, Simple Minds, Orange Juice, Altered Images, The Associates and Sheena Easton.
Mouse Eat Mouse did record and release, online only it seems, a second album, Woof, at the end of last year. I’ll get to that later.
* Apologies if this is not correct, but there are no lyrics online to the song as I was transcribing manually.