Homelife is dodging normalcy every chance its gets; the efforts on Guru Man Hubcap Lady, its fourth album for Ninja Tune, are not those of musicians who yearn for conformity. Paddy Steer leads the Homelife collective, comprised of eight or so other musicians. All recording work is done at Steer’s abode with the help of the other main guy, Tony Burnside, and whatever helpers are available. Homelife homes in on meshing exotic electronic/organic fare with respect to a collective/do-it-yourself ethic. Guru Man Hubcap Lady is one of 2004’s stronger releases, and it’s a messy, peculiar listen.
Homelife’s unorthodox sound can be attributed to Steer’s initial interest in music and its roots in classic punk records. Such roots take hold on Guru Man, which is in the more bizarre end of the Ninja Tune camp. The eight musicians who walked in and out of a revolving production door offer random means of percussion, brass and strings. Contributor Faron Brooks lends some vocals, sounding a little like GBV’s Robert Pollard on “Harder.”
Brooks expresses rather discreet sentiments about not being able to hold back some recent heartache on “Harder,” but it’s masked with a whirlwind of jumpy synths and ’80s dance-floor bass. Some banjo makes a historically brief appearance, entering at about one minute and forty-six seconds and exiting right away, only to return for about two seconds again later. I could’ve played that, then I would’ve been on the Homelife record. I could brag for days.
No chance of this troop being fenced in by any genre rules; Homelife take risks in both instrumental format and the numbers with vocals. It’s as if people are wandering in and out of a kitchen and dropping off more things for a pot of soup-in-the-making. The soup doesn’t look like it’s going to be edible, even to a drunken lout. The results, though, are delicious. What a delicious, weird bowl of soup. What do you call this? Electronic pop? With organic ingredients? Nah, it’s Guru Man Hubcap Lady. We all contributed. Have a bowl.