Album – Shag Tobacco – reviews

NME (August 19, 1995)
7 (out of 10) – …the best work that Friday has put down on record for years; while some of it harks nostalgically to early-’80s electronic cabaret…the album…fits in with such ’90s defining sounds as Portishead or Tricky. Friday creates a more ominous vibe, part `Cabaret’, part Cabaret Voltaire…

Melody Maker (September 2, 1995)
…he effortlessly straddles the line between barfly poet and 21st century Las Vegas headliner….SHAG TOBACCO is a night out on the tiles that takes in pre-war Berlin, Lou Reed’s dazzling transvestite New York, Marc Bolan’s epochal `The Slider’ and Dublin’s late night transients…

Q (January 11, 1996)
3 Stars (out of 5) – …a remarkable piece of work. At least three or four tracks–the sublime, drifting dreamscape of `Angel,’ for instance–could have made Friday a household name….perhaps his over-reliance on…theatrical flourishes…has prevented him being taken to the contemporary breast…

Musician (January 4, 1996)
…still as dramatic and angst-ridden as ever, but this time the songs…are awash in samples and beats, primed for the dancefloor…

The Independent, Andy Gill (August 11, 1995)
On Shag Tobacco, Gavin Friday charts a demi-monde whose physical locale may be Dublin, but whose imagination takes in a wider, more European aspect. James Joyce would understand, I’m sure.

Couched in musical terms of cabaret and late-night cafe, the album traces both strict hetero sensibilities (the lusty “Little Black Dress”) and more polymorphously perverse attitudes, as in the transsexual chanson “Dolls”, wherein “it’s time for Eve to put Adam to sleep”. Friday’s long- time colleague Maurice Seezer adds a little dockside decadence to the latter with a gentle wheeze of accordion, while Bono and Edge buff up the harmonies of the former; elsewhere, a clarinet brings a touch of mannered sleaze to the queenly “Mr Pussy”.

The range of music is certainly impressive, but it’s Friday’s lyrical apprehension of himself that comes across most strongly. In “Caruso”, he uses a scattershot series of cultural references to illustrate the song’s contention that “I’m not myself today”: this is a life lived through vicarious images, populated by fictions and infatuations which, he subsequently realises (in “My 20th Century”), have betrayed him, most notably the great myths of rock’n’roll. Despite this realisation, he opts to continue on his chosen route: clearly, destiny cannot be denied.

AllMusic – Ned Raggett
Friday’s third solo effort, as always with Seezer as his main collaborator, provided another development in his musical approach with the choice of Bomb the Bass mainman Tim Simenon as producer. Further continuing the initial experiments the two did on Adam ‘n’ Eve, Simenon helped create a dance-influenced album that ranges from industrial slams to clean, elegant breaks, in many ways serving as the model for his following work with Depeche Mode on Ultra. There’s more than a few hints of where Massive Attack would end up on Mezzanine as well, as the low pulses and sudden guitar/drum hits on the title track show — and the fact that the lead single from Shag Tobacco was named “Angel.” Friday himself is still the sharp-tongued ruined romantic of the previous albums, as apt to swoon as wittily shred and breathlessly gasp, while Seezer again provides the music and core work on keyboards and accordion (check out “Dolls”) to back him perfectly. The obvious glam inspirations the two have always had get full confirmation via a great cover of T. Rex’s “The Slider,” but rather than trying to recreate that song’s exact atmosphere, Simenon helps whip up a clattering, stop-start performance that still keeps all the sex. As for the rest of Shag Tobacco, it’s one lush, playful plunge after another into just enough decadence. “Angel” sounds rather like an extension of the striking Adam ‘n’ Eve closer “Eden,” similarly mixing wonderful falsetto from Friday with steady yet soaring music, including great fuzz bass from Erik Sanko. With its outrageous title, “Mr. Pussy” gets credit for being named after a legendary transvestite from Dublin, who provides the brief spoken word conclusion and shows he has as much style as Friday himself. Best song title of the bunch: “You, Me and World War Three.”