Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

It’s fair to say that a correct and intelligent obeisance to R&B is made here, and the record’s soulboy pretensions are wrapped in a prettily coloured kaftan

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I like this, it’s nice, it’s groovy, and without setting the world alight it’s one of those records that you’ll find yourself playing a lot. Like Melodies’s Echo Chamber from last year, (and countless other LPs at the moment), it draws on (and administers in dollop-sized portions) a whole set of inspirational sounds and attitudes from the late 60s: namely the groovy, hippy takes on R&B that could be heard on 69-70 T-Rex, Dr John and The Action. It’s fair to say that a correct and intelligent obeisance to R&B is made here, and the record’s soulboy pretensions are wrapped in a prettily coloured kaftan: the scene seemingly all washed down with tabs and cider. We of a certain age appreciate that UMO are in a long line of acts who have done so previously, most of them to be found on Rubble or Pebbles compilations, but you know, it’s good to do these things in the correct manner. We even get some Gong style synths on Dawn, which could lead to a whole new set of perspectives…

Still despite all my referencing, II is not some attractive tribute record that’s there just to pass the time of day, there’s enough wit and verve in the song writing for it to stand on its own two feet. The single Swim and Sleep - with it’s the beautifully plucked melody is a superb pop song, as is The Opposite Of An Afternoon – classic upgrade of late 60’s English “rockaboogie” – and a track which is so in thrall to the Small Faces I half expect it to turn up on one of their B-sides compilations. The same could be said, incidentally of the guitar line on Faded In The Morning, another real soulboy stomper. There are other fab little details throughout: such as the great guitar coda that brings So Good At Being In Trouble to an end or the phasing on cod-“heavy” No Need For A Leader – a track that lays down a considerable glam mist; and one which I half expect Roy Wood to appear out of. But as I’ve hinted at, it sounds fresh and the product of an inventive bunch of people who are able to balance modern sensibilities and a sense of 20-20 vision off against a classic template as in the fuzz stomp of One At A Time. It doesn’t hold back on getting its point across: I like the fact that they stretch the template, in the manner that it should be stretched, Monki grooving through a good 7 minutes to some effect.

So it just goes to show, if you weld a pretty tune onto a successful template and have the nerve and the imagination to go for it, you should be quids in. And I hope this record is quids in, because it boasts some cracking songs and a smart attitude, despite it sounding like a lot of stuff you’ve heard somewhere before.