Malcolm McLaren is Brian Eno with lipstick. Like Eno, he has stretched the role of producer way beyond decent limits. But for every lecture from the progenitor of ambient - delivered in the hushed confines of an art gallery or recital room - McLaren has thrown a fashion show.
Every phase of his musical career has been prefaced by a style statement. The Sex Pistols spewed forth from the fetish boutique Sex, which he ran with Vivienne Westwood on the King's Road. Their first actual collections, Pirates and Savage, coincided with the launches of Adam & The Ants and Bow Wow Wow respectively. The Buffalo Gals exhibition plundered ethnic sources and emphasised itinerant chic, a globe-trotting, magpie production approach which also characterised Duck Rock - the 1983 collaboration with Trevor Horn.
The spray-canned Puccini of Fans soon followed, and a curious collaboration with Jeff Beck and Bootsy Collins called Waltz Darling which attempted much the same thing with Strauss.
Now we have Paris, out on Disques Vogue, possibly the most style-conscious project yet. In a way, one might have expected McLaren, at this stage, to hook up with a pubescent Nintendo whizz-kid and do a computer game - called Virus, or something. But then he is 48. Accordingly, a mature and sophisticated McLaren musical travelogue has been recorded in the French capital with Robin Millar, chairman of the producers' forum Repro, and Lee Gorman (once the bass player in Bow Wow Wow).
According to McLaren, the songs "inscribe a map of feelings over the jazz-drenched city of Paris," a place that evokes daydreams of Eric Satie, Art Blakey and Serge Gainsbourg.
To add that essential cross-cultural flourish, actresses Catherine Deneuve and Framjoise Hardy provide vocals on the album, and not a single Ricard-soaked motif is overlooked as McLaren ticks off the icons on his itinerary.
Where next will provide the themes for his impudent variations is anybody's guess. It's a different kind of ambient, using the studio as a catwalk. And maybe only Malcolm McLaren could get away with it.
News by Phil Ward
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