“Death is not the end” sang Bob Dylan, and the proof of it is the sad death from MS of Graeme Wilson in December 2011, which inspired his friends to complete and release his final record. Those friends include Mira Aroyo (Ladytron), who duets on most of the songs, Koichi Yamanoha (Grimm Grimm), Mon Chan (Bo Ningen), Dino Gollick (Lightspeed Champion), Ricky Maymi (Brian Jonestown Massacre), Alex Lawton Mawdsley (Comet Sands and co-founder of the Projects) and Matt Simpson (The European), who finished the vocals and tweaked the music using three songs that Graeme had already mixed as reference. And the record is both a fitting tribute and the most accomplished of the four Projects albums.
There are krautrock rhythms, scratchy post-punk guitars and rivers of electronic noise, but above all this is catchy pop, to be filed alongside Broadcast and Stereolab. Graeme’s illness overshadows the record, but not in an oppressive way; ‘A&E/ITU’ has fun lyrics (“in A&E there’s lots to see, in ICU there’s lots to do”) while its spacey rhythms are uber-catchy, and ‘Emma Nutt’ has been left with simple “pah-pah-pah” vocals but it’s a hellishly good tune, with a krautrock beat and a pastoral, fluting synth riff. ‘Set A Course For The Stars’ is both Ballardian suburban nightmare and profound Tarkovsky movie, while ‘Cold Fusion Experiment’ replays the classic trope of the cool girl who doesn’t know that her lovesick admirer exists (“she ignored my friend request/ should I resend it?/ maybe she missed it”) set to sinuous rhythms and a pulsing bass. His political nous is reflected across the record: ‘I’m Learning Chinese’ is tongue-in-cheek geopolitical commentary (…”to hedge my bets against what may be/ when they are the top economy”) while ‘Anne Is A Socialist’ is the Communist Manifesto and an atheist’s charter set to a loud post-punk beat.
The record has a maverick charm, with the same off-kilter pop sound he’d been making since 2004’s Let’s Get Static. The pity is that Graeme didn’t get to hear the quality of his friend-finished final record but we can, and we should.