The music is great, I'm just disappointed that the words undermine the music at so many turns.
Curious City, the latest offering from Modey Lemon is by turns a strange and intriguing listen. Intriguing because (well, for me at any rate) it has the capacity to excite, inspire, charm and annoy in pretty much equal measure. It is also one of those albums that gets better and better the longer it runs, the last few tracks being fantastic, and more than enough to prevent me throwing the cd across the room, which was my first impulse when hearing the first couple of numbers. Maybe it's wise to vent my spleen now, in order to concentrate on the last part of the album, and givie it the praise it rightly deserves.
First; the bad stuff.
I can't really listen too much to Bucket of Butterflies, because the stop-start melody annoys the fuck out of me, it probably won't with any of you, but listening to music is, I'm sure you will all agree, a very subjective experience. Moreover, the twee lyrics are borderline childish, with lots of faux wisdom thrown in. I'm all for psychedelia, and I have more Robyn Hitchcock records in my collection than anyone I know (bar one person), but the lyrics to this song make me run round my room in anger and embarrassment. "I have a phone at home / But it has no dialtone / So me you might have called/And I would never know. You 've been out in the fields / Picking berries / Looking very Unreal. As if the Queen of Elves / Had come to me herself.." Annoying, eh?
Sleep Walkers, for all it's banal lyricism, (and, no, I'm not going to print any more out) is quite arresting sonically. It gets on with the business of freaking out pretty well, quickly establishing a pulsating backdrop to some Quicksilver Messenger Service style guitar parts. In Another Land, with its bouncy, psychedelic backdrop is very reminiscent of the Dawn of the Replicants LP. In fact this song could be nothing else but drug tinged, as the title itself pretty much gives the game away. The clever clever lyrics are mercifully swallowed up by some great guitar noise. The same goes for Mr Mercedes, a great driving, restless maelstrom of a track nearly undermined by some faux-naïve (i.e. bollocks) lyrics. Quite why I am getting pissed by these lyrics is not hard to fathom. It feels that not much effort has been put into them, save for a certain amount of care given in order for them to sound like hippy cool. Which isn't enough, in my books. The music is great, I'm just disappointed that the words undermine the music at so many turns.
Right, enough moaning. What about the good bits?
Fingers Drains is the point where things take a turn for the better. An understated, moody guitar/organ squall eventually erupts in a Velvets-style mess of feedback. Great stuff. Red Lights boasts a growling rumbling beginning before a fantastic Chocolate Watchband style chorus breaks out mid-track. This is brilliant. We're almost in In a Gadda DaVida territory here. In the Cemetery has, appropriately enough, quite a spooky beginning, offset by very restless, unnerving drumming. Soon the song opens up into a fabulously lazy chorus that is itself offset by some psyched-out guitar runs. By contrast the restless Mountain Mist gets straight to the point with a stripped-back sound that sounds almost bleak compared to the rest of the album. Once again the drumming is fabulously interpretive and keeps everything ticking over. Countries slows everything down considerably, sounding very much like Electric Music for the Mind and Body. Not that that is a bad thing at all, I hasten to add. Actually I'd like to hear more of this kind of track from Modey Lemon, as they have (to me) criminally underplayed this aspect of their sound on Curious City.
Countries doen't really prepare the listener for the last track, the epic16 minute wig-out that is Trapped Rabbits. I don't really want to write too much about this song; suffice to say it is bloody brilliant and the best freak out I've heard in ages. It does not let up for one second, just when you think it can't go any further it does. Fucking marvellous and a worthy addition to the catalogue of similar tracks (Sister Ray, Amboss et al).
Listen to me. One minute I'm cursing Modey Lemon, the next minute you could accuse me of fawning over them a wee bit too much. Intrigued? Then check it out.
Words: Richard Foster