Stephin Merritt has a great voice. What’s more, he has a great, unwavering voice live: this I know from last week’s Magnetic Fields gig. So the forlorn-sealion thing he’s doing here comes as a gruesome shock: lines like “I’m lonely as Mount Everest and probably as high” cement his position as pop’s most assured gagster, but it makes me wince every time because he cracks so badly delivering it. That sizeable concern aside, solid stuff: Future Bible Heroes is the most pop of all Merritt’s bandlets, and while the arrangements are never quite as crisply original as on Fields albums, he brings the hooks with good-humoured pastiche panache.

Plus, even if you doubt his sincerity (and for the record I think the question’s perfectly irrelevant), he’s a master at pinning down particular mindstates and spinning them into a song. “I’m Lonely” is a layer cake of similes and one liners with no message whatsoever beyond the title – Stephin’s been dumped and by God he’s happy about it. Maybe all songs used to be like this, before they started rooting around in singers’ souls and pop turned into a voyeur’s funhouse, and while there’s no going back it’s lovely to have a few songwriters are playful and knowingly slight as Merritt is.