Already a local legend on the performance scene, Mulletproof’s first full-length collection stakes an immediate claim to cool based on the cover alone. A striking image by Mark Dickson is capped with this quote from Jim Bob (of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine fame): “Like finding a great lost Roger McGough collection in a box in the loft.”
It’s a good call: the poems on offer here are as grounded in reality and conversational in their aesthetic as anything by McGough. But the ghost of Adrian Henri suggests itself in ‘Wings’, ‘The Love Tree’ and ‘It’s No Longer Tomorrow, Yet…’ – the latter the most nakedly experimental piece in the collection. In fact, Light at the End of the Tenner is thronged with ghosts: Soviet cosmonauts, rock ‘n’ heroes, suicidal comedians, B-movie casualties, and Jimmy from Quadrophenia riding Ace Face’s Lambretta over the cliffs and into eternity.
Mulletproof’s subjects are certainly eclectic. From a geriatric Elvis swapping Graceland for a trailer park to deer armed with Kalashnikovs squaring up to their erstwhile hunters (“no more roof rack mortuaries / or tailgate processions // just the sun shot green canopy / and the assurance of a fair fight”), the poems bristle with attitude as they blaze their way through half a century of pop culture, span the globe and (quite literally) shoot for the moon.
But Mulletproof’s hometown is always the anchor. ‘Radford Road’ is an impressionist portrait of Nottingham in all its on-the-streets glory, while ‘Rammel Nitrate: Nottinghamshire Kisses and Laced History Lessons’ whizzes slap-bang through the county’s history, picking out a through-line of what made it the place it is today, while ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Rumour’ sees Alan Sillitoe’s racing-throwing anti-hero eternally on the run.
Clocking in at a chunky 116 pages (steroid poetry in a culture where most collections barely tap out at half that length), Light at the End of the Tenner captures on the page what anyone who’s seen Mulletproof live cherishes about the man: flair, fury and flippancy in roughly equal measures.