Half a Helluva Record: Box Codax, Hellabuster.

If you thought you had reality sussed, that you'd heard the weirdest, wonkiest and most remarkable, Nick McCarthy's Box Codax ought to give your every sense a rigorous shuffle. They'll have you hurling your records skywards like insignificant confetti in unguarded frivolity. Or at least the devilishly decent first half of Hellabuster will. Eponymous opener Hellabuster is, as McCarthy himself quite defiantly states, "classic songwriting". And it's classically, classily classic. The English language doesn't cater for enough superlatives to cover its time signature-shifting pop radiance, the mysterious Alexander Ragnew coyly monologuing intermittently, plugging up the gaps left by McCarthy and wife Manuela Gernedel as they hurtle wondrously soothing vocals at one another. There's then a Baroque-esque harpsichord breakdown. Baroque-esque harpsichord. Harpsichord. And it's irrefutably phenomenal. The disco chic of the segueing Seven Silvers bobs and bounds to delightfully exuberant, vaguely space rock-like strings and vocals that this time clatter and thunder into one another. The Ariel Pink-infused funk slump of Radical Plains too runs with the retroistic whacked-out-of-this-world theme, before eventually escalating into celestial, cinematic climes, whilst Choco Pudding is monstrous in all the right ways, the disconcerting cyclopean vision of The Residents glaring down upon the meticulously efficient jaunt of Devo. The Gainsbourg brogue hues of Pour Moi, washed deftly over despondent acoustic twang prove sumptuous, their antithesis, I Won't Come Back a punked-up retracing of Auf Achse were it battered about in a trashcan with Aerosmith. Then there's the glorious '60s shimmer of Charade, an LP closer if ever there were one, and a last dance soundtrack you'd save the sweetest apple of your eye for. Yet Hellabuster then rollercoasters into roughly sketched, Only An Orchard-esque schizophrenia. McCarthy has created, or perhaps curated, a record that's certainly more than "a bit more listenable for everyone involved" when set against its predecessor in that its first half is nigh on impeccable, suggesting he's more or less halfway to his own carefully constructed acme, his aim of heightened listenability.