The Moles - Tonight's Music - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Moles - Tonight's Music

by Jeff Penczak Rating:4 Release Date:2016-08-12

Richard Davies (no relation to the Kinks brothers) has been working on this, his fourth solo album for over 12 years, since before it was originally announced on the excellent Cardinal/Moles fan site. He describes it as “almost like a journal covering 15 years”. Confusion still reigns as to why this was released as a Moles album, as there  are no other Moles members on it and it sounds nothing like their original work, so best to think of it as Richard’s fourth solo album rather than the third Moles album. In the event, Davies sure gives us our money’s worth, squeezing 24 tracks into the full CD allotment of 79 minutes, allowing a few seconds for indexing!

     The a capella chant that opens ‘Strange Summer’ is an unusual way to kick off his first album in over a decade, and the kitchen sink guitar onslaught he tosses in nearly, um, sinks it altogether, but it eventually settles into a weirdly unbalanced acoustic little gem (with Youngian overtones) that should go down well with Kevin Coyne fans. ‘Head In The Speakers’ is a quick (2:19) little lo-fi ditty in the vein of his Cosmos collaboration with Guided By Voices main man Robert Pollard. It also ends as awkwardly as a turd in a honeymoon bed.

     More lo-fi rambling continues on the dirgy, asynchronous ‘Space Fever’, again featuring mumbled non-lyrics that make Marc Bolan sound like Shakespeare. Ditto on ‘Highbury & Islington’, which morphs into some piano ballet recital, accompanied by over-yonder vocals, let’s-see-what-this-pedal-does guitar histrionics, more seance-styled chanting... all of which goes on for over six tortuous minutes. By now an alarming trend unravels that makes me wonder if Davies maybe needs another dozen years to go back and write some songs to accompany these fractured noises.

     ‘Needle & Thread’ tries to make something out of a kick drum and a metronome and actually succeeds in creating a downer, junkie nod sort of universe. It also helps that he spent more than 15 seconds on the lyrics – hell, it helps that he wrote some lyrics, making this one of the tracks that you might be able to play for your friends whenever they ask “Whatever happened to The Moles?” I also liked ‘Slings & Arrows’, seeing as it cops a feel from the beloved Dan Treacy and his TV Personalities.

     But too many tracks are (still) unfinished (what they hell are ‘Stray Dog’ and ‘Home For The Hobos’ all about anyway?), although ‘Damian Lovelock’ punks its way home nicely in an appropriately skint 71 seconds, while ‘KBO” is a pub rock treat at 77! Jeff Lynne would kill (or at least strongly arm wrestle) to get his mitts on ‘Are You Free Tomorrow?’ and try to finish off what Davies started, but ‘Shandy’ sounds like he recorded some friends building a shed in his backyard.

           The second album fares a little better (and probably should have been released separately), starting with the jangly pop of ‘Dreamland’ and ‘Beauty Queen of Watts’ (how’s that for a Pollardesque title?!) I don’t know if the tracks are sequenced chronologically, but these later-sequenced tracks sound like they were recorded in a professional studio with a producer who did more than read the paper with his feet on the mixing desk. But don’t get too comfortable, as Davies thinks reciting ‘Room Temperature’ or ‘Wear and Tear’ over and over constitute songs (with something approximating his guitar falling down the stairs, and someone learning how to play drums, respectively, serving as background “music”).

     I’m not sure who these half-baked thoughts and dress rehearsals masquerading as songs are supposed to appeal to – they lack the sweet naiveté and pop sense of a Treacy or Pollard or the manufactured chaos of a Julian Cope or Wayne Coyne (or even Kevin, for that matter). I don’t think Moles fans will cheer or Cardinal fans will celebrate or Davies solo material fans will blindly accept what’s taken a dozen years to unleash. There are 24 tracks here, but with a little more attention and polish, there could be a serviceable album lurking inside. But what we have here has to go back to the chef to finish cooking.

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