A couple of years he was the Happiest Man Alive, and about twelve months later everything was Tickety Boo, so where does Reverse Psychology fit into the continuing saga of that bloke who used to front The Sports?
It's a bit over two years since that last studio effort, and Stephen Cummings gigs tend to be few and far between, so at a guess he's been sitting quietly in suburban Lovetown reading, listening to music and doing the odd bit of writing. This latest effort's not exactly a long player, and at $13.52 for a touch over half an hour's music you might not be inclined to look favourably on this eight track extended EP.
Then again you're looking at a long term songwriting talent who has managed to find himself a cosy niche in a fairly quiet market as he skips across genres as the mood takes him. It's not quite Elvis Costello territory, since Cummings has always given the impression of being somewhat more laid back than the bloke who was once reckoned to be churning songs out at the rate of one a day.
As far back as The Sports era, where Cummings was one of the main writers in an outfit that ranged across Little Feat-style slink through power pop into new wave territory, there has always been something interesting in a new Cummings-related recording and Reverse Psychology continues that tradition.
Take the first three tracks here as an example. After a whooshy synth intro, Stupidity evolves into a bluesy ballad, the vocoder-based Ooga Booga has proved to be a significant ear worm in these parts and would, with different backing track, have fitted nicely with the rockabilly on Firecracker and there's a vaguely Mediterranean flavour to The Cat And The Coq that contrasts nicely with the previous retro synths.
They’re different takes on a characteristic style, and once you’re familiar with the man’s work you’re hardly likely to mistake him for anyone else, but he’s a writer and performer who’ll roam across the genres and, as a couple of albums (Close Ups and Good Bones if you want specifics) have shown, he’s quite willing to rejig earlier material into different styles.
He’s not, in other words, your old one trick pony.
With long-time collaborator Rebecca Barnard sighing away in the background Not In My Skin is familiar territory, as is Through December and after I Can't Stay Mad At You starts to lift the tempo there's some sizzling guitar work on the rocker All Day, with it's references to a certain well known song by The Kinks. Back in familiar Cummings territory You Should Get Out More wraps things up rather nicely.
Cummings, along with latter-day preferred collaborator Billy Miller (The Ferrets) continues to hop and bop through the genres, and though mileages might vary there's invariably something in a new Cummings recording to attract Hughesy's attention. As far as I can tell (it's an extensive discography, after all) I've got everything he's done in the past, barring a couple of compilations and there's nothing here that'll stop me from queueing up for a copy next time around.