Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Moondoggies - Tidelands (Hardly Art)

It’s a shame, it’s a pity. As an album opener, this is less a sweeping statement and more a modest comment. But, a comment on what?

Seemingly informed by an idyllic view of the States, Tidelands is an organic, retro-rocking, second record from The Moondoggies. Combining the sounds of Country, Blues and Rock; Tidelandshas a distinct, but occasionally over-familiar sound.

Bands like Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and The Cave Singers have not helped The Moondoggies, as the sweet style of Americana has saturated the sound-scape over the past couple of years. Where the Fleet Foxes happily fall into a hippie-like ambient haze and The Cave Singers boast a vocal edge, The Moondoggies unfortunately slip into the dreaded middle ground. The middle ground is a musical hell, soundtracked by Mumford & Sons.

Tracks are written with a sense of economy, the whole album runs at a healthy 42 minutes; unlike the often stereotyped America, there is no fat to be found on Tidelands. The album may be highly influenced, but that does not stop it from having its own, personal voice. Mixing the aforementioned genres, but bringing in even more styles [gospel crops up a lot], The Moondoggies sound less American Indie and a bit more like The Coral. In fact, the more I listen to the album, the more I’m reminded of the weed-mellowed Scousers.

Album highlights include What Took So Long, which boasts an organ-heavy chorus, the particularly ‘Coral’-sounding Lead Me On and Down the Well, which is really the band’s finest 5 minutes. Embracing the heavier side of the genre is when The Moondoggies are in their element; the sound of singer Kevin Murphy’s voice striving for prominence with the instruments, helps give the band a sense of urgency and importance.

It’s a shame, it’s a pity- what the hell does it mean? Well, some critics have turned their noses up at the music, because of its familiarity. In an interview* for the first album, Murphy is grilled about “not sounding modern” and is actually accused of following a popular trend. Murphy retaliated with a pretty inspired monologue about music bloggers and the new cynicism pointed towards modern music. “If you've listened to the album I don't know if it's anything but honest. Are drum loops modern honesty? There's nothing conscious about how we develop our sound. It's people I've always known sitting together and singing songs.” At the end of the interview, when Murphy is asked about the direction for the second album, he deadpans “less retro”.

In short, for all of its sincerity and sweetness; Tidelands is a big FUCK YOU to the preconceived notion of modern music and a celebration of honest music. Can’t argue with that.


Words : David Campion

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