[sic] Magazine

Maps – Turning The Mind

We all lick our wounds, occasionally even publicly but few of us would lick someone else’s. Maps James Chapmen invites us to do just that on his latest offering, Turning The Mind. An unsavoury prospect, certainly but maybe we shouldn’t knock it until we’ve really tried it?

We could file Maps somewhere between m83, Manual and Moby but it tells only half a story. Spelled backwards, Maps becomes ‘Spam’ – either; a processed meat product with a gelatinous glaze (and added sugar), or of course, undesirable junk mail. A cursory glance around the UK music press would suggest that most reviewers feel Chapman has taken a backwards step with Turning… and that the latest collection is spam, i.e. over-processed, saccharine and highly unwanted. This, I’m sorry to say is more indicative of the state of British journalism than the album. Reason, debate moderation, balance… none of those things sell papers or magazines any more. Sensationalism and sound-bites sell. Why? Because we buy them. We must therefore want this dumbing down of our media.

My God, what is happening to us?

But this is a review not an editorial. And do we really care what those other scribes think? Criticism has focused on overproduction and vocal frailty and it’s true the album does suffer, in places, from both. But Maps music has always been a melange of glossy pop disguising the bitterest of messages. Okay he’s no Jeff Buckley with a mic but neither are Messer’s Tennant, Broudie or Sumner, and these are far more credible peers. I would also remind everyone that it is the same voice, same artist and same recording approach which led to a Mercury nomination last time around.

You can’t have it both ways.

(Klaxons won that year, by the way. Make your own conclusion.)

I make no wild, ‘Album of the year’ claims for Turning The Mind. It is neither ‘dogs dinner’, nor ‘dogs bollocks’, instead merely a proper album chock full of ups and downs, (just like Chapmans bathroom cabinet)

I’m unmoved by many of the tracks Chapman had obviously inked in to help promote this album. ‘Let go the fear’ for example… I’m still waiting for the point. Same goes for ‘Papercuts’ and ‘I dream of crystal’. ‘Everything is shattering’ for me is just horrible. When you’re already ‘pop’ don’t try to go more pop. Don’t strive for purity. It’s bland.

The elongated intro that is the title track is an undeniable triumph – a gospel-tinged sermon or a laptop Mercury Rev. A classic start to the album. Then there’s ‘The note (these voices)’ with its disturbing allusion to suicide. The music is light and glorious but the content, chilling. We also have ‘Valium in the sunshine’ which is could be a Spiritualised Electric Mainline take on the ‘All is full of love’ melody. Insert pharmacy of choice. (There are at least two in the title alone.) My favourite moment on the album has to be, ‘Love will come’. I’ve seen this vilified elsewhere. Wash your ears out. It’s incredible. I love its sheer mania and the idea of it subverting dance floors and radio play. At last some bass. If PIL gave us ‘Death Disco’ then ‘Love will come’ is surely the successor. The ‘Afterlife Disco’ if you like, its partygoers oblivious to whether the destination is upwards or downwards.

General critique for this album is routed somewhere credible (“vocal”, “production”, “dips second-half”…yeah, whatever) but has subsequently flourished in sensationalistic manner until its branches and foliage obscure the main picture. If 8 out of 10 hacks said ‘their cat vomited all over Turning The Mind then they obviously gave it a solitary play. Live with it for a bit and actually it could be the cats’ whiskers. One listen is never enough. Let it come through. The truth is, it’s a mixed bag, a rollercoaster ride in the Theme Park that is Chapman’s current state of mind. Yes maybe some of the rides were ill-designed with some twists thrilling and other turns leaving us nauseous. Certainly there are too many sugared products on offer. A few more salty snacks might be advised if he wants us to drink more.

Personally, I have always favoured the ‘rollercoaster’ album over the ‘flatliner’. For this reason alone I think Turning The Mind is actually a more interesting record than We Can Create. Some day it will be re-visited and re-appraised. For now, let them call it ‘spam’ if they need to. (This way we can file it somewhere between Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized). We know Maps is actually quite the opposite.