Simultaneously endearing and unsettling, Jay Foreman is an extremely talented comic songwriter who is becoming progressively better. He certainly has some impressive tricks up his sleeve; interrupted by a latecomer, Foreman ‘recapped’ the gig by playing his last song again in under ten seconds. He didn’t skip a word. It was a moment typical of his set – great comedy underscored by real musical talent. Foreman has a surprisingly beautiful voice, with an impressive range and a knack for delicate delivery. He also knows how to milk this for laughs, as in The Sooty Song, where his incongruously tuneful screams of fear had the audience in stitches. The tunes are great as well and show a degree of musical experimentation far beyond the typical ‘four chords and a knob-gag’ structure.
In fact, some of his songs are barely comedy songs. Foreman’s humour takes an unusual line, aiming for melancholy or childlike whimsy rather than out-and-out belly-laughs. Though this approach works as it is, it would be more effective if he had the confidence to leave it unexplained and unqualified. After one rather Spike Milligan-ish ditty about his favourite balloon, Foreman felt the need to grin sheepishly at the audience and apologise, ‘I was so stoned when I wrote that.’ It got a laugh, but undermined the aura of oddness which was just starting to gather around the room. The best moments of Mixtape are those where Foreman strays furthest into the realm of the weird, as he does in his bafflingly plotless mid-set performance poem, or in ‘Skin Sofa’, an Ebay sales ad for a sofa made of living, sweating human flesh. A disgusting idea, but a highly original, well realised and wickedly funny one.
His more conventional comedy songs – though still very entertaining – are generally his weakest. Opener ‘What Else Has Dick Van Dyke Been?’ gets away with simplicity through some well-judged mild audience interaction, but Youtube-hit ‘Stealing Food’ came across as disappointingly ordinary when heard alongside the rest of the Mixtape. I look forward to seeing Foreman again when he’s perfected his act and has a little more faith in the originality of his material. In short, bring on the weird.