The folk-electronica artist's 1999 debut includes two bonus tracks.
In the mid-'90s, Nick Laird-Clowes -- whose mid-'80s band, the Dream Academy, enjoyed a few hits, notably "Life in a Northern Town" -- decided to take some time off and traveled around India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Tibet for a time. He took with him a dictaphone recorder and made field recordings of what he was hearing all around him, whether it was chirping birds or confused taxi drivers. Returning to his home in England, Laird-Clowes eventually met up with Alan McGee, who wanted the singer to record a solo album for his Creation Records label. Laird-Clowes spent the better part of four years recording, resulting in 1999's critically acclaimed Mona Lisa Overdrive, taking its name from a William Gibson cyber-punk sci-fi novel. The album -- credited to Laird-Clowes' newly adopted moniker, Trashmonk -- was a mixed bag of various cyber-folk sounds and edgier space rock-influenced songs, many built upon transient electronic noises, spoken-word samples, and various instruments blended in with Laird-Clowes' scratchy and understated vocals. "Girl I Used 2 Know" kicks off the album in fine form, with hushed vocals, a stop-and-start rhythm, and various electronic noises, similar to what Jason Pierce does with his group Spiritualized, only there's an added Middle Eastern element to this one. "Polygamy" features looped tablas, while "Sapphire" is a pastoral British folk ballad with jazzy guitars. Laird-Clowes' voice is untreated and laid bare here, sounding influenced by Nick Drake (he is an admitted Nick Drake freak). "High Times" recalls early-'70s-era John Lennon (whom Laird-Clowes had worked with early in his musical career), sounding something like Primal Scream transmogrifying the Beatles' "Come Together." Much of the album recalls other modern-day cut-up artists like Beck, Cornershop, the Beta Band, Badly Drawn Boy, and the aforementioned groups. No-Man's Ben Coleman -- who has worked with various ex-members of Japan, including Steve Jansen, Richard Barbieri, and Mick Karn -- played electric violin on four tracks. After McGee shuttered the doors of his beloved Creation, he bought the tapes to Mona Lisa Overdrive from the Sony label and gave them back to Laird-Clowes, who in turn licensed them back to McGee for release in September 2001 on McGee's Poptones imprint. The new reissue contained two bonus tracks and new cover artwork by designer Mike Alway. The album's original closing track, "On the Way Home," was later used during the closing credits of The Invisible Circus, a movie starring Cameron Diaz for which Laird-Clowes did the music. He also contributed to Diane Keaton's directorial debut, Heaven, in addition to providing music for Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Trains, Planes and Automobiles, both directed by John Hughes. ~ Bryan Thomas
Magnet (1-2/00, p.82) - "...Laird-Clowes recasts his eclectic musical ambitions...into the silicone ether of today's grand studio paradox: acoustic guitars and drum machines....perhaps the most ambitious album of intellectual fermentation ever recorded..."
CMJ (11/8/99, p.23) - "...[Nick Laird-Clowes] has an esoteric, experimental approach to sound construction...the performer can't hide the fact that he's a classic, '60s=sty;e acid-pop craftsman at heart..."