various artists: Songs for the Jet Set, Volume 2

various artists
Songs for the Jet Set, Volume 2
Jet Set

"Come on and follow me through a dream," Tomorrow's World sing mellifluously on "Forgetting," one of the many highlights on the second volume of Songs for the Jet Set. And there could be no better way to underscore this lush pop compilation's invitation to enter a wondrous world. Both volumes of Songs for the Jet Set draw a map of the brain and heart of one Mike Alway, an eccentric British visionary best known for Èl, the short-lived but influential label he spearheaded in the mid-'80s. Èl released a motley assortment of records, including some early recordings by Scottish electro-cabaret experimenter Momus, a set of pop odes by a pair of posh London sisters called the Would-Be-Goods, and concept projects by former-child-star-turned-soundtrack-composer Simon Fisher Turner.

Alway's projects always managed to give off the impression of a perfectly thought-out, ultrastylized pop world. He may have been accused of putting out affected records, but somehow their self-conscious effeteness seemed more honest than most late-period punk posturings. After laying low in the early '90s, Alway has resurfaced to release Jet Set records that often sounded like the work of English public school refugees juxtaposing the orchestral majesty of Nelson Riddle's 1962 Lolita soundtrack with the psych-candy of the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Though the songs on Jet Set's second volume come from various sources (among the album's originals are covers of tunes by Riddle, Quincy Jones, the Monkees, and the Alarm Clock), the compilation as a whole is more coherent than most single artists' albums. Colorful originals penned by Philippe Auclair (who produced the album under his nom de musique, Louis Philippe) coexist seamlessly with Kim & Co's cover of "Lolita Ya-Ya." Elsewhere impeccable bossa novas--leavened by girlish woo-woos, waa-waas, and pa-pa-pas--segue into mod-pop instrumentals. Simon Fisher Turner fronts Loveletter for a version of the Monkees' lovely "Forget That Girl," a coy, cautionary tale punctuated by retro organ riffs, while Momus indulges in "Surround Yourself With Milky," dedicated to his wife Shazna (the "Milky" of the title).

Perhaps as a preemptive strike against those with little patience for saccharin pop confections, the album ends with a song titled "F for Fake" by the provocatively named Wallpaper. But cynics be advised: When you go home from a stultifying job, assaulted by the crassness of everyday life, the escapism of Songs for the Jet Set will remind you that "F" can be for Fabulous, too.

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