When dealing with the musical endeavours of a Turner Prize-winning artist, it is difficult to separate the two - it is easy to fall into the trap of 'if I don't like this, it must be beyond my artistically under-nourished comprehension'. Martin Creed's latest release is in many ways as baffling a piece of work as his controversial Work No. 227: the lights going on and off - fragmented, unfinished and completely ludicrous - but, like this and the majority of his art, there is merit in its charm, naivety and originality. It is nonetheless as bizarre within its context as outside of it.
But were Mind Trap the work of a more run-of-the-mill artist, would it be treated differently? A good artistic portfolio can often turn the harshest of critics into pandering apologists; finding solace in the fact that there is a history of, and potential for, bigger, better and brighter things. It is a contentious point as to whether Martin Creed has either of these: his Turner Prize winning work was vandalised after he'd won the award and his profile outside of the modern art community has gently declined. His music, for all its hyperactive, sub-nursery in-cohesion, says a lot about the man, his motives and why he has long said that he 'doesn't know what art is'. And it's good, for the most part.
A collection of songs and 'works', the latter of which clutter the end of the record with a mess of somewhat ill composed 'classical' pieces, Mind Trap largely acts as a collection of initial ideas, with no songs feeling overly finished. As is often the case with unfinished songs, there is a certain academic worth to them- think Bob Dylan outtakes, or general What-The-Fuck-Are-We-Going-To-Stick-On-The-End-Of-The-Twenty-Fifth-Anniversary-Deluxe-Edition filler.
Creed is clearly of an hyperactive temperament, the tracks generally simplistic, punky and brief, thrashes wound around a phrase or an idea with sparse, loud accompaniment (with the exception of the bloated 'works' section of the record). Take 'Pass Them On'. Creed opens by speaking the words “If you're feeling bad, and your thoughts are sad/ Pass them on to someone else” before crashing in with a track that is basically just him and his band singing “Pass them on!” for two minutes, thrashing their guitars, with the occasional further advice of “to a relative/ Or a friend”. This might sound like a self-help tape from a post-breakdown Steiner School Teacher, but the results are actually quite good: the vocals rich, the guitar punchy; a punk track revolving around a minimalist technique of layering and motif. There is a lot of semi-inspirational codswallop on the record, but it all comes across as endearing and heartfelt as opposed to self-important or smug, 'If You're Lonely' being another prime example. Creed works around the phrases “Don't be, please” and “Please Don't Be” amidst stabbing guitars, stuttering time signatures and staccato backing vocals. Again, it's great: lo-fi, inventive and infectious. He ends with more spoken word 'advice': “If you're lonely then this is for you”. Erm, cheers Martin.
The work here is all the product of an inventive mind: some tracks are better than others and some others are completely shit. What Mind Trap is is a piece of work that was made to satisfy Creed- it is a bonus if the audience like it. This may be why Creed 'doesn't know what art is': he creates work and people either consider it to be absolute drivel or a forerunner for the Second Coming. This is neither, but it is certainly worth listening to.
6Jon Clark's Score