In Debt To Napoleon IIIrd

by Alex Hern

Another potential album of the year…

Napoleon IIIrd is one man from Leeds, who plays music with a couple of instruments and a reel-to-reel tape player. His debut album, In Debt To, came out with the sort of staggered that only indie labels are forced to do, arriving digitally in May, slowly building up the attention needed for the physical launch last month.

Experimenting with broken rhythms and symphonic production (he occasionally plays shows through surround sound speakers), he has culled two singles from the disc, both released on Brainlove Records, the London-based basement company that released the album.

The first, This Is My Call To Arms, begins with him wailing, out of tune and sounding slightly mad before racing to a false finish just 20 seconds in. Singing, in harmony with himself, “This is my call to the upper limbs”, horns kick in, and the song proper begins.

The trait that both Call to Arms, and the current single, Hit Schmooze for Me share is a feeling that they are every so slightly broken. What belies their analog roots, though, is that these hiccups – slightly off-key singing, instruments not all starting at the same time – add to the enjoyment of the song. Don’t get me wrong, I love Glitch as much as the next man (because the next man probably hasn’t heard of it), but, like Lomography before him, Napoleon IIIrd succeeds in taking technology that doesn’t quite work, and using those flaws to create beauty.

He has other, more traditional, good points as well. His wry lyrics (“Guys In Bands Get Girls”) fit the music perfectly, and Hit Schmooze For Me has a genuinely singalong breakdown (“This is not my life, it’s just my day-job, the way I pay the rent”), but Napoleon’s real charm lies in his quirkiness, and refusal to compromise. It may not be a formula for conquering the mainstream, but I get the feeling that that isn’t really his aim.
Standout tracks on the album include Guys in Bands, Hit Schmooze for Me and the tender apology of Kate’s Song

Napoleon IIIrd – Guys in Bands (Live) [MP3 Removed]
Napoleon IIIrd – Hit Schmooze for Me [MP3 Removed]