(Cherry Red, out Fri 12 Apr 2019)
Like a Jean Genet character set adrift in Brexit-era Britain, Andy Bell’s polysexual alter-ego Torsten is an ongoing collaboration with writer Barney Ashton and musician Christopher Frost. The project first ignited as a critically-acclaimed staged song-cycle, Torsten The Bareback Saint, at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. And it’s magnificent.
This, the third part and follow-up to 2016’s Torsten The Beautiful Libertine, follows previous themes of lust, hedonism and loss. This time around, Torsten is coming to terms with being “a queer in the autumn years”, and acknowledging how broken he has been, but finding himself on the road to some kind of bittersweet resolution.
Divided into four acts, Queereteria vacillates between nihilist tendencies and reflective introspection. So, too, the music shifts in tone and genre. Bell’s playful, scabrous duet with new wave icon Hazel O’Connor, If We Want To Drink A Little, is evocative of Weimar cabaret, a la The Threepenny Opera; whereas the brilliantly named Come And Taste My Breakdown operates in a defiant squidgy keyboard strut, and gorgeous torch songs like We Hadn’t Slept For Twenty Years and A Hundred Years Plus Today are utterly stripped-back, but no less pointed.
Bell puts everything into this shimmering album, a passionate diva with an arched eyebrow, all but spilling blood in every song. And all done in vertiginous heels and corsets – impressive.