...XYZ from Melody Maker
...XYZ is admirably ambitious. The melodies clearly aspire to (but don't quite scale ) the dizzy heights of lachrymose grandeur attained by Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb ballads like Wichita Lineman and By the Time I Get to Phoenix. The overall sound is like A.R. Kane attempting to simulate the tremulous, heart-strings-a-quivering arrangements of such Sixties pop-C&W, but using their swarm of ice floe guitars instead of an orchestra. The result is a spectral avant-C&W that mostly works like a dream: There's a real affinity between country's lump-in-the-throat despondency and the shoegazers' mumbling miserablism.
Little Bird sets the tone, a happy sad melody swathed in a gauzy miasma of mandolins, with a rubber band bass line that's pure homage to Wichita Lineman. Don't Bring Me Down is candy-coated in acoustic cascades and rippling braids of pedal steel. Overall, gooey devotion is what Moose are about, rather than red blooded desire. The Whistling Song is all swoony glissades and dew stippled cob-web and, yes, whistling. Then there's a flustered cover of Fred Neil's Everybody's Talking, which doesn't quite extinguish the memory of Nilssons's Midnight Cowboy version. Side One closes in epic style with Sometimes Loving is the Hardest Thing: pang laden strings and celestial vapour-trails of guitar form a slipstream of blurry majesty, like Bowie's Heroes meets George Jones.
On the flip side, Soon is Never Soon Enough is the closest to conventional rock propulsion here; the model is possibly Exile on Main Street, but the candy floss production
impedes any real honky-tonk raunch. On I'll See You in My Dreams, so hazy is Mitch (R.E.M.'s "Murmur", "Reckoning") Easter's production, it's like the song's obscured in a dust devil swirl of apple blossom. High Flying Bird has one of the album's prettiest out-of-time tunes and keening C&W-muzak strings. Screaming is closer to the post 1988 radiance of Moose's first and loveliest EP, a glad foot just of iridescence.
Friends is the least of moose: it's a ditty with a morose plod of a beat and Gedge-like
vocals, although there's nice acoustic embroidery as the song ambles into the sunset.
Finally, there's XYZ itself, the most successful fusion of the two sides of Moose's schizo-aesthetic. It's a desolate, ambient soundscape, a country homestead on the crest of the
canyon. Whistling (again!) and Russell's lonesome voice drift on the breeze, lustrous guitars peek through like shafts of sunlight after a downpour; the result is a gorgeously disorientating avant-MOR, like Eno at the Grand Ole Opry.
On the title track, Moose's divided impulses
(corny sentiment versus abstract expressionism, Glen Campbell versus AR Kane), which have coexisted rather precariously for much of the album, finally achieve glorious resolution. And the result is like nothing you've heard, right up there with Spiritualized's Step Into the Breeze
in the annals of latter day bliss rock.
Folks, this is one heck of a lovely record.
-SIMON REYNOLDS, Melody Maker
...XYZ from Q
Coasting on the successes of their first three EPs in 1991, Moose have spent most of this year planning and recording their debut album. And in an effort to distance themselves from the so called shoe-gazing scene their name was unavoidably linked with in the initial stages, this year's Moose are blending their My Bloody Valentine guitar spaceouts with a country-tinged song-based style which echoes Jim Reid and Kris Kristofferson. The sparse production provided by Mitch Easter (R.E.M.'s Murmur and Reckoning) works to best effect on the quirky Little Birds, the Velvets-styled staggering country of Polly or the four-in-the-morning moody atmospherics of the title track. Even if the overall result still has enough disregard for itself to comfortably blend into the independent charts, it's becoming clear that Moose have their sights fixed on further horizons.
XYZ, Little Bird, Liquid Make-up from the Big Takeover
... an absolutely unique, brilliant LP.
... just top rank moody, reflective pop (producer Mitch Easter's best work in eons!) ... strong melodies and gentle rhythms that suggest Simple Minds' heyday circa New Gold Dream if they were more modest folks. The cover of Harry Nilsson's Everybody's
Talking (written by Fred Neil) is particularly scrumptious, as is the bouncy, jocular-with-pretty strings single Little Bird, which is the LP standout. (It's non-LP B-sides
There I Go Again, Theme From Ace Conroy, and ZYX would all have been fine on the LP, so buy the single as well.) Country, my ass!
... Liquid Make-Up turns out to be no loss of quality ... especially the jangly, ultimately catchy as a cat's claw I Wanted to See You to See if I Wanted You. There's A Place and
Ramon are good too ... Buy all three of these, especially the LP. Even at import prices.
-JACK RABID, the Big Takeover
Thanks to T.T. for copies of these reviews, and to Jack Rabid/the Big Takeover for permission to reprint. The Big Takeover offers back issues with excellent and informative interviews and reviews with Moose and hundreds of your favorite bands. (Issues 32-1992, and 36 and 37-1994 have the interviews). Subscribe or at least ask your local newstand to stock this fine mag.