Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Album of the Month: KNICKERBROCKER GLORY by John Moore

About two hundred pages into Phil Baker's The Book of Absinthe, a book that absolutely everyone has to read, I saw the name of John Moore. There was a slight tingle of surprise, and yet strangely the whole thing made sense. In fact, it had me recollect two things: a small club in Munich where I tried absinthe for the first time and the songs from John Moore's Lo-Fi Lullabies that hit me so hard a few years back. "What Do You Want To Talk About", a green glass of Mari Mayans. Suddenly, it made perfect sense. 

Knickerbrocker Glory is John's fourth solo album after the sad demise of Black Box Recorder, and it's much in the same vein as the previous three: narcotic vibes and late-night introspection. This time around, however, the sound is less claustrophobic. "Philosophical Man" (the single), "Controlled Explosions" (indeed) and "Something About You Girl" (new version of an older song) are infectious rock'n'roll hits for non-existent charts, and "Anne Of A Thousand Ways" is an ultra-speedy waltz that features some bizarre opera singing that either works brilliantly or doesn't work at all. I don't believe we are supposed to know.

However, it would just be your average great album without the five remaining ballads. "Rabbit Hole" is of course an instant John Moore classic, the pretty "Near Me" could meander for days for all I care, and then there is the small matter of three closing songs. These I've grown to value as highly as that final four-song stretch on Lo-Fi Lullabies. It's vulnerable lyrics meet confident songwriting, and I defy you to find a stronger conclusion to a 2018 album than "How Do You Turn A Friend Into A Lover?", "The Girl From Reno" and "South Of Heaven".

There's an old interview where Martin Amis spoke about the feeling he had while reading Saul Bellow. He loved those books so much, he felt there was no other person in the world who could possibly get more out of them than he did. That is a rare thing, and I can't shake off the feeling that this is exactly what is happening here. "The Girl From Reno" speaks to me in ways that I would call intimate, which is odd, and all the more rewarding, as I have never really met any. I have tried Mari Mayans, though. 

* In other news, Alela Diane's Cusp is a perfect February album and Lawrence's "When You're Depressed" is a perfect February song (Go-Kart Mozart's Mini-Mart is out, and it's as deranged and intelligent as you could wish).