The secret love child of a four-way that starred Michael & John Head, Paddy MacAloon, and Andy Partridge, Mothertongue make the kind of classy pop that yours truly has always been a sucker for, way back into the last century, when as a three foot six snotty oik in short trousers I always preferred Roy Orbison to Elvis Parsley on the steam powered radiobox. “Freddy Woman”, I believe it was called.
Hailing from Manchester, Mothertongue appeared to have arrived fully formed back in Spring 2016 with the impossible to ignore infectious pop of their debut album Unsongs, a confection that bounced around your living room like an over excited puppy. Now older, wiser, and able to burrow into all kinds of mess when let off the lead, they drop this little beauty at your feet. It seems that this time they deserve more than a pat on the head and that special treat they go mad for, as Where The Moonlight Snows carries on in leaps and bounds where Unsongs left off. Such is the craft apparent in the songwriting that I will even forgive the less than top quality review download I am listening to right now, entitled sod that I am.
Eschewing the obvious big entrance, the band open the album with the low-key Blue Wicked Heart, all spidery guitar lines and blue hazed melancholic trumpet longing in a vaguely Spanish air of lingering menace. Singer and chief songwriter Louis Smith clicks imaginary castanets while mesmerised “…with your crystal gaze…I’m freezed from the frame”. Spooky!
At almost an hour long, the 12 tracks of mostly a fairly similar length contain so much music it’s difficult to take it all in, and I have listened many times, both before and during the course of this missive. What I can say with certainty is that Ofelia is chuffin’ gorgeous. Well it is, and it does not take long listening to this intricate lacework of an album to gauge the huge amount of work that went into crafting its sheer beauty.
The trumpet lines on Sunset Rose take me back to the early showing of the aforementioned Head brothers’ pop genius in The Pale Fountains. Mal De Mer has more than touch of pronk about it, which is no bad thing at all. This is the sort of album you will find yourself whistling along to on the bus, much to the annoyance of the other passengers, as you never could whistle properly, could you? Alternatively, you could sing it in the shower, but your better half has already threatened you with a painful demise if you try that again. Oh well, silent earworm it is then, and there are more than enough of those spread across this little nugget of a record.
The Isle Of Not Quite Right is the nominal title track. The lyrics throughout the album are impressionistic bordering on the surreal, and it’s no different here, but a sense of dislocation pervades the track, appropriately enough as Blighty lurches this way and that as The Matrix shorts out in a way no-one could have predicted at the time of Unsongs’ release almost two years ago. “Inside, outside, downside, upside, home again” sings a confused Louis, to a suitably big and edgy arrangement of the kind Andy Partridge would have written, but with fatter chords.
When The Moonlight Snows is the feelgood record of the Spring, and will put a spring in your step and the zazz in your pizzazz. It is perfect for the season of renewal as new life bursts forth with its annual optimism. Buy it now.
01. Blue, Wicked Heart (5:46)
02. The Creature Tree (5:24)
03. Mal De Mer (3:22)
04. Panic Rock (3:55)
05. Ofelia (6:19)
06. Sunset Rose (3:55)
07. Shipwreck Song (4:45)
08. It’s Getting Weird (4:35)
09. The Bullet (4:14)
10. The Isle Of Not Quite Right (5:39)
11. Earthbound (3:56)
12. Whatever Waves (5:37)
Total Time – 57:30
Phil Dixon – Guitar & Backing Vocals
Will Holden – bass, Backing Vocals & Saxophone
Andy Malbon – Trumpet, Cornet & Backing Vocals
Filip Pardej – Drums & Percussion
Louis Smith – Vocals, Guitar, Synths & Ukulele
Mark Wall – Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Synths & Backing Vocals
Daniel Zambas – Piano (tracks 5 & 6) & Seqential Propheteering (track 10)
Ramsey Janini – Flute (tracks 8 & 11)
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Date of Release: 23rd March 2018