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album review: The Moons ‘Pocket Melodies’

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The Moons

THE MOONS
Pocket Melodies
[Colorama]

The Moons Pocket Melodies is the long [as in, Second Coming-style long] awaited follow up to their last studio album, 2014’s Mindwaves. Fourth time around the band – formed in Northampton, but now spread far and wide – are a different proposition. All parents, busier than ever with day jobs [cough, Weller band, cough], and a seemingly more relaxed approach to the music game. At the helm: songwriter Andy Crofts, who learnt his chops in local bands Circa and The High Drivers and then broke through to some brief national acclaim with The On-Offs.

After the sonic experiments of Mindwaves, an under-rated album that was drowning in synth lines, Crofts has moved the band forward by looking back. Not to the early band days or anything like that, but with the nostalgia of his words and outlook. This collection feels like his Ray Davies moment; celebrating half-remembered ideas of childhood adventures in ShoeTown, simple romances, and the like. It suits the band tendency anyway; that of a retro guitar-pop amalgamation that amalgamates the best bits of beat, psychedelia, folk-rock, glam, new wave, 2-Tone, indie, and Britpop into their own particular magic.

Pocket Melodies‘ opening trio of ‘Today’, ‘Riding Man’, and ‘The Old Brigade’ are probably the most charming and melodic songs you’ll hear in 2020, and for that achievement alone you have to get this album. A grand claim? Perhaps, but producing the laser guided melodies he can showcases just why Crofts is still in demand all these years later. Elsewhere ‘Far Away’ adds Eastern flavours to a poppy waltz engine, the band really showing off their chops at every turn. ‘Tunnel Of Time’ is a co-write with Weller, who presumably added his sweeping arrangement ideas in to create an Abbey-Road-style mini-epic.

A pastoral, Kinksian trip in the classic songwriting game permeates Pocket Melodies‘ twelve tracks, and is particular noted on ‘Sleep’. It’s bought to life however with some typically cutting lyrical insight, that happily put modern politicians in their place. ‘Maybe I’m The Perfect Man For You’ is jangle-tastic, bursting with crystalline, light-touch lines. The big number on the album has to be ‘The Lone Wolf’; there’s orchestral passages reflecting the pop melody to greater heights, and adding some Brian Wilson-style squiggle sounds in the instrumental verse is lovingly playful. ‘Rear Window’ is a classic Moons piano-driven romper, whilst closer ‘An Ordinary Romance’ sits in more crooner territory; just singer, acoustic strum, and a symphonic accompaniment to play off. It’s a dazzling end to a confident album of consistent highs.

It’s hard to knock any part of this album really. It is admittedly quite a middle of the road ride, but I’ll happily take that when the views are this glorious. It’s the widescreen sound of a band coming back with spirits full, when quietly slipping away [as real life inevitably gets in the way] would not have been a shock. Luxuriate in its Abbey Road Studio 2 sound, for Pocket Melodies is probably your wisest choice of purchase as this strange year draws to a close.

Phil Moore

The Moons Pocket Melodies is out Friday October 23rd on vinyl and CD

Q&A with Andy Crofts
How did recording at Abbey Road come about?
It was a life dream of mine, and after so much time out of the picture with The Moons I felt like we needed something to kick us back into shape. So Abbey Road did just that! We were in Studio 2, The Beatles room, and you could just feel the magic in the walls. I’d been in there before but never with time dedicated to just my own music. We recorded the album 90% live in one day, with additional bits at Wellers studio. It’s certainly a day we will never forget. In fact I’m thinking how I could go back in to record my solo album.
Was their a particular aim with this album sonically?
Not really sonically no, but I knew that as we would be recording it all in one day at the same place that it would have a sonic thread through the album. There is so much ambience in the recordings. Half of this was my fault, as I insisted the string quartet was in the main room with us so we were all in the magic together. But in hindsight they should have gone in the string chamber. The drums bled into the string microphones and made a bigger sound than I originally wanted, but I like it. It has its own thing going on, and most of all its live. As for the order and feel of the tracks I guess I had some songs that never made the session. They might have worked, but it felt natural to leave them out on the day. The songs that made the album have all been laying around in my pocket [hence the album title] for some time, and it dawned on me one rainy day that if compiled it could make a great pop album.
The album seems to resonate contentment. Recording something like ‘The Lone Wolf’ with the orchestra and all the sound effects must have been fun.
It’s nice to hear you say contentment, although I hadn’t really thought. But I guess it does! I never plan the vibe of an album and I just let it do it’s thing, but one thing I did know was that I wanted it to feel colourful with super melody. All the songs are pretty sweet and sat well next to each other. It felt nice to make this kind of album for a change so we just let the ’60s pop flow. ‘The Lone Wolf’ is actually one of my favourite songs on the album. I remember actually writing that song in Northampton whilst living on York Road. I did a rough demo and always thought it would only be a B-side, but amongst this album it worked well.
With covid messing everything up how do you move forward with The Moons going into 2021?
Moving forward is a very strange one right now, isn’t it. I mean when and how? This album should have been out way before this but I decided to rush it when all this virus stuff happened. All I knew is that we need to put this record out despite there being no touring, and simply try and lift peoples spirits during these surreal times. The future for The Moons is more free than it has ever been. I’ve let go of the stress of conforming to the pressure of the music industry forcing you to make regular music or the iron goes cold, etc. Life gets in the way! If you’re not in a huge band where money isn’t a problem then life can be pretty tough. I have the best job with Weller, but I still spend most of the time making ends meet so therefore my music happens when it happens. But saying that; I’m not lazy and always try to keep putting stuff out and especially now I have my own label [Colorama]. When all restrictions lift and I’m not touring with Weller The Moons will see about a tour, but right now we are a studio band for the time being. I have a bunch of songs which could be the start of the next record already, and also solo album demos etc, so I’ve got my thinking cap on in advance for next year. Who knows what the future holds.

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