Pagan Wanderer Lu - Build Library Here (Or Else!)

Tim Miller 20/09/2007

Rating: 3.5/5

'Prolific' barely scratches the surface when glancing over Pagan Wanderer Lu's output since he first edged into the music scene via Wales in 2001. Not counting standalone singles, this one-man music factory has produced no fewer than 11 EPs and three full length albums; and, as arguably his defining release, 2005's 'Build Library Here (Or Else!)' is re-issued for a market currently guzzling up DIY singer-songwriters.

For Pagan Wanderer Lu is nothing if not the epitome of DIY. Proclaiming quite happily on his MySpace page a neat description of himself as “lo-fi pop on plastic instruments gleaned from…charity shops and car boots”, his first album was limited to one copy, hidden in an unknown location in Aberystwyth and had no identifying features save “PWL- ALBUM” written in marker pen on a CD-R.

It is a leftfield mentality such as this that has accrued Pagan Wanderer Lu a fan base who will be just as enticed to this re-issue as the uninitiated. Instantly charming, if a little peculiar, the Pagan Wander Lu 'thing' is clear from the opening strum of 'Build Library Here (Or Else!)'. Switching comfortably between the clean acoustic or fuzz-swathed electric, the chirpy riff of 'Show Me Yr Knuckles' compliments other buzzing moments like '2 Bullets', a song which appears to choose its own speed at will and builds into a lo-fi indie rocker, if that isn't a contradiction in terms. Later on, what is undoubtedly the album's highpoint, and wallowing in its own rock hedonism, the brilliantly elated 'Jabita Nu-Orleenz' sounds like Jack White at 14 after too much Coca Cola.

No slouch at the various instruments he picks up and puts to good use, Pagan Wander Lu also exhibits a tack-sharp lyricism with real wit - on 'Keep The Weather Out' he casually intones “When we go on holiday we always come back, 'cause we felt a bit guilty 'bout the War in Iraq” - and emotion cleverly-veiled by amusing sidesteps. Although his warm voice occasionally wavers out of tune, one snippet of ironic self-pity sticks out vividly; “I don't want to drop dead and be an undiscovered great/and have my fanbase be subjected to those fucking awful tapes/that I made when I was fifteen just to satisfy demand/for some new unheard material I really need a band.”

With drums and rhythms that sound like looped recordings of kitchen utensils being thrown unceremoniously down stairs - that is, clatteringly unpredictable - and a tendency to twiddle knobs of electro boxes almost for the sheer hell of seeing what the sound like, Pagan Wanderer Lu springs constant, quirky surprises. '(Sick Of) Playing Solo' is a case in point, toy ray guns apparently warring between cloudy keys and rumbling bass, while 'Harp & Chainsaw' sees plonky raindrop synths spatter across what might be a discarded Super Mario theme tune. Conventional and grandiose, it ain't. It is, however, all part of an endearing coyness that somehow brings together these seemingly disparate elements into a wholesome, homemade sound, and Pagan Wanderer Lu's genial re-issue is a warm, tuneful and sparkling reminder of singer-songwriter individuality.