It hits you almost as soon as the first track ‘Pando Serving for the Match’ gets going, around the time the ominous voice which first welcomes us to the proceedings before launching into a tale of android invasions and puny earthlings living and dying “like ants” (think Richard Burton a la War of the Worlds, only imagine the destruction of the human race narrated over a toe-tapping jazz beat) gives way to some tripped-out guitar virtuosity, that you’re not really sure just what it is that you’re hearing. By the time the listener has slalomed through the new-wave flourishes, chaotic breakdowns, half English/half made up lyrics (I’m still not entirely sure what “Never let your fagga go hagga” means) and reached the rather brilliantly epiphanous conclusion, you can only sit, stunned, trying to make some sense out of what has just happened.
As a girl once famously said to her dog, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
This is ‘Deathbed Pando’, the new solo album by the eponymous and enigmatic former Kerkhoff frontman Pando. Though a native Londoner, he relocated to Zaragoza where he would spend the best part of a decade, first releasing two albums with the aforementioned Kerkhoff before embarking on a wonderfully oddball solo career that has, with this release, spawned four albums (should you want to explore further, they’re ‘We Want Pando’, ‘Hands on Pando’ and ‘Snapshots of Pando’ – starting to see a theme here?). ‘Deathbed Pando’ sees Pando back in London and with a new band, having recruited jazz musicians Stu Ritchie (drums) and Geoff Threadgold (bass), Fonten Gregory (keyboards), Afferson Bryony and Lizzy O’Connor (backing vocals). All four of Pando’s solo albums have been released by Valencia-based imprint Hall of Fame records, whose penchant for releasing wildly experimental, boundary-pushing records may give you some indication of what to expect from ‘Deathbed Pando’.
This album does not allow for easy classification – it’s an album that enjoys bamboozling the listener as it gleefully hops from genre to genre. The music encompasses almost everything, running the gamut from rock to country, folk to funk, psychedelic to (in the case of “Off Me Tits”) vaudeville, but Pando is an extremely skilled and versatile guitarist and his backing band are in fine form behind him, so the actual musicality is more than a match for the albums ambitious scope. The one constant on this album is the wickedly malevolent sense of humour which permeates each song, jumping from satire (the state-of-the-nation moan that is ‘Up Sticks’, or ‘The Suckies’ ribbing of modern day bands with their “messy hair” and “tight trousers”) to the toilet humour of ‘Lovers’ and the lovely little ditty to bestiality that is ‘Dirk Smuts’.
Though the rest of ‘Deathbed Pando’ never truly scales the madcap heights of its first song, it’s still a bizarrely interesting journey into the psyche of a massively underrated yet gifted artist, creating music the likes of which you’re highly unlikely to hear too often. One can only hope that the deathbed of the title is figurative, rather than literal. But if the latter does prove to be true, then Pando has bowed out with one hell of a bang. 7.8/10.