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  + Guilty Fist

History of Mexism






MEX ALTERNATIVE POP MUSIC… from 1980 & into the 21st century

A poetess and DIY musician collide, creating a precarious conceptual, thoughtful and often improvised album of librettos and melody…

First collaborating back in the late nineties, the dynamic duo teamed-up for the 2015 album Guilty Fist, whereby Cremin recites everyday underbelly tales of the habitual yet bizarre humankind, over Mex’s hypnotic often blue musical soundscapes.

Music, Bugs and Gender

Review by Andy Morton, May 2015

Mere months after his return to album action, musician and producer, Paul Mex is back again with a new release, Guilty Fist, that he describes as ‘the first record … since 1989 that (he’s) reasonably happy with‘. Personally, I was more than happy with Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde; and whilst much of what appealed to me about that record is present and correct here, this is a release with more layers and richer texture, both musically and lyrically.

Performance poet, Bernadette Cremin, who also contributed vocals to …Jekyll… had taken the driving seat this time around, enlisting Mex to complement a collection of mostly spoken word pieces with individual soundtracks. It’s a collaboration along the lines of Steve Hogarth and Richard Barbieri’s Not The Weapon But The Hand, a lyrical/musical split that hinges on a personal and musical sympathy.

For argument’s sake one might discern three intertwining threads amongst the nine tracks on offer: the album begins and ends with purely-instrumental pieces, created by Mex. High Ceiling has a somewhat perfunctory intro feel: affecting in and of of itself, albeit lacking any obvious connection to the following track…

...Mosaic Revisited sounds as though it was conceived during the …Jekyll… sessions: a swaggering, guitar and drums-driven number, over which Cremin lays a smokey drawl. It has an improvised, stream of consciousness feel that my head just nods along to unbidden, in a cool way. Along with Beat and the title track, it’s the most ‘rock’ sounding thing; though the aforementioned are respectively lighter and more funk-flavoured; and slower with a grungy feel. Mex’s long-term friend and Porcupine Tree player, Colin Edwin guests on Beat, and it’s a compliment when I say he leaves his personality behind in service to the track, contributing only groove (by contrast to a long-ago Liane Caroll gig which her bassist husband nearly ruined by wanking all over it).

Growing Pains and Fruit for Rumours foreground (Cremin‘s) words more overtly. The music accentuates meter and bolsters the narrative without getting in the way. Exactly.

(Closer) Sad on the other hand (another Mex instrumental) is both affecting and effective, with subtle musical and emotional sophistication: it picks up on the sombre mood of preceding track Poetry (my favourite song on the album, synth-sax and all…) and ruminates unto sleep.

Having recently reviewed, and to a point, enjoyed, Steven Wilson‘s latest; I couldn’t help but be minded at times of that album, trailer single Perfect Life in particular. Superficially, the similarity is pronounced – a woman narrating aspects of her life over moody, electro-rock soundscapes – and there’s more than a passing resemblance between Cremin‘s vocal and Katherine Jenkins‘, a similar casual affectation belying emotive, subject matter. What slightly disappointed me about that album is showcased somewhat more effectively here, however: a sense of an authentic female voice. Wilson is a sensitive, imaginative man; but a man, nonetheless. And though the musical accompaniment is more rigid, less syncopated and ethereal, my second point of reference is Ursula Rucker: there’s a similar understated passion and grit in Cremin‘s delivery. Whether Guilty Fist is a ‘concept album’ per-se I’m not sure, but as Sad winds to a close, I’m left with a sense of catharsis, of a chapter (in her life’s) ghosts laid to rest.

Poignant and elegiac, and powerful stuff.

Hiroshima Yeah!

Reviewed in Issue 133, March 2016

This nine track CD contains music that alternates between soundtracky/Portishead type stuff, post-punk, '70s disco, jazz and folky acoustic loveliness while the vocals are mainly of the spoken-word-poetry variety, although Bernadette Cremin also unleashes a warm croon now and again, most notably on the album's most ‘songy’ songs, Mosaic Revisited and Poetry, and the splendid title track. Elsewhere, the ten rather sombre moods lifted by some snippets of Amy Warehouse like studio chatter.

It's very strange that I first played this right after Drive-By Truckers' Decoration Day, an album that contains two songs berating someone who committed suicide, as this features a song called 'Growing Pains' that is very much in the same spirit.

Southwark Mental

Health News

Reviewed in Issue 130,

April 2016

There are literally tens of thousands of albums available these days of relaxing chill-out noises, described by some as ‘whale womb music,’ supposedly aiding meditation and mindfulness. Guilty Fist, by successful pop producer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Mex and embittered vocalist Bernadette Cremin, subverts this genre with some floaty, semi-new age synth-driven dream-along sounds which aggressively promote the virtues of UNRECOVERY. Much of the music is trance-like and blissed-out, but it's accompanied by Bernadette's cursing and swearing, and on the most intense of these nine songs, Growing Pains, wishing a violent and painful afterlife upon someone who has taken his own life but who appears to have sexually abused her during her childhood. "I took ugly drugs at your funeral... So I was capable of telling lies for your mother... I hope you had that moment to panic properly," she says.

While most of the vocals are spoken as poetry, there are times where she bursts tunefully into song and these add welcome variation to the overall mood of wistfully mindful evil thoughts; and occasionally Mex even adds blasts of rock guitar.

The fourth track Beat introduces dance rhythms into the mix, and we are told that each of us is a "victim of circumstance... made into words... making it all a bit messy."

Warm Spoon features what could be flutes or even whales, but it would be frightening if we knew exactly what the whales are thinking, because this is certainly not a self-help album - and thank fuck for that.

Wax Cylinders

of Excitement

Review by Lawrence Burton, March 2017

Just to get the customary objections out in the open, whilst it isn't strictly true that I hate poetry, I probably hate enough of it to render the assertion more or less accurate; although, to break it down a little further, the specific sort of thing which brings me out in hives is poetry which knows that it is poetry and which introduces itself as such with either a wry Stilgoe-esque smirk or the sort of studied glacial nonchalance that can only be perfected by many hours spent gazing either into a mirror or up its own bumhole. It's the teenager who has somehow managed to have seen it all before and who understands just how shocking his words must seem to the audience at the - ugh - poetry slam, enunciating cock like the word might be new to us. It's my former housemate Steve poeting about how fucking her is like escaping from a drowning helicopter, when we all know he never even got close, and that the unlucky lady in question had more sense than to let that passive-aggressive little misanthrope anywhere near her ha'penny.

On the other hand, I very much like Charles Bukowski, Billy Childish, Bill Lewis and others whose work I tend to think of just as writing, because that's what it is. So my criteria seems to rest upon how much the work is involved in the mythology of its own self-importance. In other words I like writing which just gets on with the communication without having to tell us what form it's going to take; and getting at last to the point, the writing of Bernadette Cremin, whoever she may be, very much belongs in this second category.

On the face of it, Guilty Fist is someone reading poetry to the accompaniment of suitably atmospheric music, except it's nothing so mannered as the description might suggest. Bernadette Cremin speaks her own words with the sort of gravity which demands you stop whatever you're doing and pay attention, and her testimony is spot on - clear and straight to the heart of the matter with chilling precision, neither showboating anything too ostentatiously shocking nor necessarily reducing everything to its lowest common denominator. She gets the balance exactly right, perfectly blending the narrative with the mood of the music, dispelling the suggestion of either being mere accompaniment; and this syncretism is further achieved when she slips into song and turns out to have a pretty decent bluesy voice.

Her subject matter seems to be highly personal and quite intense, so listening is a profoundly psychological experience. The music, mostly arranged by Mex, takes a downtempo direction with bluesy, jazzy, even occasionally pseudo-classical inflections. I'd say it reminds me a little of Portishead, except I never really liked them that much, and this is better. At times I'm reminded of In the Nursery when they were slapping marble columns on the covers of their records and pretending to be French, or maybe even Cranes, if anyone remembers them. Certainly there's a gothic element, gothic as in reading Mary Shelley with a glass of whine rather than dressing up like Nosferatu. Anyway, whatever it is, it's very powerful.

Treat yo'self!