It's very good to hear Richard Davies's voice again. The man is a true original of skewed oddball antipodean pop music and it's been awhile since we've heard much from him following his string of decent solo albums and great collaboration with Eric Matthews as Cardinal. So like many others he's back using the name of his legendary band who actually didn't release much in their first lifetime so further recordings are much required. Recorded around the world with different musicians this could finally be the opus of great left field pop that Davies has always been threatening to make.
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Well this is a mess.
Australian pop kings the Moles have chosen to return with an album that makes Robert Pollard look like a quality control manager. There are 24 tracks here of which 10-12 or so are really, really good. The rest are made up of ridiculous studio experiments, general faffing about and bits of ear splitting noise. Fortunately when the Moles are good they are very good. Richard Davies is an expert songsmith but other than their early ‘Untune the Sky’ LP which was generally pretty consistent it is looking like the rest of their career is a self sacrificing clutch at what might have been. 1994’s ‘Instinct’ was a ludicrous if fascinating foray into crazed jazz inflected stuttery songwriting and now we have this.
I wonder if Davies was stung by his far too smooth ‘Telegraph’ LP in 2000 as he then went onto collaborate with guess who? Robert Pollard and this record seems to an attempt to replicate Pollard’s anything goes approach. Amongst the mess there are plenty of shards of pop glory, ‘Space Fever’ is superb lolloping distorted pop that steadies the ship somewhat early doors but it is followed by a couple of tracks that Davies insists must be recorded on dictaphone and it’s only when ‘Needle and Thread’ switches to a higher fidelity then it starts to reveal it’s mid-fi glory. Like Pollard, Davies is expert at getting hooks out of absolutely nothing and it’s a rare event here that he writes an actual structured song. ‘Slings and Arrows’ is such an anomaly with it’s lilting countryish melody but once again it’s followed by scree for awhile before we get the lovely faux naive pop of ‘Damien Lovelock’ which sounds like any number of NZ pop experts from the Flying Nun past. And so the album continues in this vein for a long while yet with Davies holding out his hand to give you a stellar pop song then snatches it away again before you can grab it. When he’s nice to us we get the beautiful ‘Dreamland’ and ‘Beauty Queen of Watts’ and I’ll forgive him once again for making me sit through several minutes of him fiddling about with his amp.
The Moles deliver the goods here but they make you work hard for the thrills. Looks like they’ve given us the directors cut before the actual edit.
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