Stephen Fievet is LMNOP. Drawing from a consistent and seemingly bottomless well of neat melodies, memorable hooks and substantial personal lyrics, the one-man power pop auteur from Atlanta loads each perky studio arrangement with rich layers of guitar, harmony vocals and whatever else his febrile invention may contrive to add. Once a devotee of pop’s charm and innocence (although he always evinced a weakness for corny puns and gratuitous vulgarity — LMNO3’s “Sitting on Uranus” being an example of both), Fievet has displayed a deepening well of viciousness and despair, which makes LMNOP a bewildering psychic ride.
The first cassette offers early versions of songs (e.g., “Breakfast Cereal,” “Hide in Fiction’s Hands,” “Sandwich Time for the Smaller Children”) which Fievet re-recorded for Elemen Opee Elpee and Pony. Despite rudimentary sound quality (drums especially suffer), it’s a fine starting point.
Following two more cassette albums, LMNOP finally reached vinyl. The unfailingly perky Elemen Opee Elpee contains charming and provocative contemplations on mendacity (“Please Believe Me”), conformity (“The Big Ride”), world peace (“Breakfast Cereal”) and the study of anthropology (“Comparitive [sic] Analysis”), all sparked by crisp production and flawless playing. Anyone fond of Shoes, Advertising, Milk ‘n’ Cookies, Sneakers, Three O’Clock, etc. should find the record a most agreeable treat. Although LMNOP is clearly a one-man show, the drummer of a performing lineup did help on the record, and two non-participants are also pictured for confusion’s sake.
Leading off with the brilliant “Idea,” the Pony tape (issued on vinyl in France) contains such idiosyncratic outpourings as “Suggestion for Rock Culture in the 90s” and “Automobile History.” Not all the songs reach the standard of the first vinyl album, but there’s plenty to entertain LMNO-fans.
LMNOP’s darker side (no secret to readers of the deeply disconcerting and outrageously crude Baby Sue comic Fievet draws and publishes as Dr. Don W. Seven) began to surface in the lyrics of the excellent Numbles. In a delightful voice, Fievet sings such unsettling hummables as “You’re getting headaches so much of the time/Your memory has run dry and darkness is all you feel.” With nine of the best tracks from Pony and Elemen Opee Elpee added as a bonus, the French Numbles CD is an essential introduction to Fievet’s bent world of wonder.
After two further cassette-only releases — the full-length, all-new Mnemonic and a live solo acoustic retrospective, The Tiny Cupcake Dilemma — LMNOP issued its first domestic CD, the 30-song, 70-minute Camera-Sized Life, which reclaims one song from each of those two tapes. Pouring out new tunes by the bushel, Fievet never falters stylistically: with small adjustments in approach, each nugget has a full apportionment of melody, sprightly guitar, firm drumming and light, energetic, multi-tracked singing. But the even confidence of the performances belies the turmoil of the lyrics, which sail from simply enigmatic through discomforting to flat-out scary. “Stranger’s Son” ends by sweetly calling its object “a scum-faced fuck,” hoping “your car gets crushed.” “Goodbye” starts out “Used to be a fag/I used to be a bum/I used to be a vandal/Now I’m not one.” “Ush” moralizes “There can be no peace without penalty” and offers such grotesque images as “cut into my brain like knives…I can hear the scratch of rat claws.” “Taking Off” announces “I wanna crawl up inside you and never go away.” The charged-up “Torn Lining” recalls that “Imagination led me right to my death.” A repeat offender from Mnemonic, “Fix My Wagon” jovially invites mayhem: “Kill me, please/I want to be your victim/Don’t bother me/Unless you can hurt me.” Only the howling feedback and somber tone of “MFSB” (“My father has lost his mind/My brother has lost his soul”) suits the gothic horror of Fievet’s imaginings, which no longer display the flip charm of his early work. In the voice of Daniel Johnston or Trent Reznor, such nervy sentiments would be delivered with clues to their intent, but LMNOP serves them still bleeding on a context-free plate with a friendly smile. Now, that’s truly frightening.
Pound is 40-song CD of new material (except for four numbers from Mnemonic): the selections include “Unnatural Interest in Excretory Functions,” “The Beauty of Death,” “Retarded Fucker,” “KKK Crown” and “I Don’t Want to Be a Member of Your Fan Club Anymore.” The LMNOP saga continues.