In the 1960s and '70s Serge Gainsbourg, the French pop composer and Momus' idol, seemed to be in a dialogue with jazz musicians and faddish artists alike. (Then again, it could have just been bald theft.) Momus is similar, experimenting with current sounds: spare folk, the kind of Casiocore favored by Stephin Merritt in the Magnetic Fields, the crafty electronic dance flash of the Pet Shop Boys, and lounge crooning, among other genres.
As a songwriter though, Momus talks back to classic authors. The overeducated pop fop uses wit like an 18th-century French courtier, as a ruthless rapier to disembowel his enemies. But more often, that wit is a tool to explore subjects that fascinate him: sexuality, homoeroticism, incest, the creation of society and culture. Pompous (on an early record he called himself Dante's double) and self-deprecating (his own Web site step-by-steps a blase formula for writing Momus songs), he's endlessly compelling. A self-conscious scenester with a couple of bands on the Postcard and 4AD labels in the early 1980s, Creation in the mid-'80s, his influence became plain with the rise of fey Britpop acts like Pulp and Suede a few years ago. (He also appears on current records by Belle & Sebastian and the Divine Comedy.)
Now a producer of young Japanese pop sensations, the subject of three documentaries, and a computer geek, Momus continues to make records. The recent 20 Vodka Jellies compiled oddities and rarities made in the '90s; Ping Pong, his 12th or so, is only the second released in the States. This is his first San Francisco appearance.
-- Jeff Stark
Momus performs two shows Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Peacock Lounge, 552 Haight (at Steiner). Junior Varsity KM, Bushee Loop, and Gilles Weinzaepflen open at 8:30 p.m.; Weinzaepflen opens at 11 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-9850.