songs are recommended listening for anyone who enjoys the peculiarly British eccentricities of
, and the like. His grasp of the pop hook has been second to few throughout the 1980s and '90s; his arrangements favor a guitar jangle but are usually infused with a whimsical eclecticism full of goofy sound effects and unusual garnishes of unexpected percussion and string instruments. His voice is winningly quizzical, but his chief assets are his compositions, which reflect contemporary English life with a wry combination of affection and cynicism.
For most of the 1980s, Newell
was the mainstay of Cleaners From Venus
, who recorded most of their albums at home for cassette-only self-release, although they eventually put out some vinyl product. After a short stint as head of the similar Brotherhood of Lizards
started a solo career in the 1990s that was essentially a continuation of the territory he'd explored in the 1980s; sometimes he re-recorded songs from the previous decade. The difference, if any, was that he was concentrating on the proper official album market instead of the cassette underground, with somewhat higher (though not slick) production values. Newell's
most acclaimed album was 1993's The Greatest Living Englishman
, which was produced by Andy Partridge
. The Off White Album
(1995) was a bit more baroque in approach, with occasional string arrangements. Spirit Cage
was issued in fall 2000. Newell
has co-written material with Captain Sensible
and is a poet/humorist of some renown in Britain, publishing his own prose with a good deal of success and writing humorous pieces for the Independent newspaper. Ironically, his music is virtually unknown on his home turf, although he enjoys a considerable cult following in Germany, Japan, France, and on certain American college radio stations.