In the heat it might become easy to remember things. That’s the way it will seem. But the reality is that it is the solitude- the heat is a red herring.
Nothing but record reviews and the stuff of unrecorded and unmemorable transgressions rattle about in the dark or in the shower or at the desk. It may become possible to list outside possibilities ad infinitum, but there will be no scientific evidence to back the claim.
Everything these days has a feel of osmosis, the penetration and the rearrangement of borders/lines between things the more less happens.
“Puzzles Like You” is the new record by Mojave 3, whose “Excuses for Travelers” still stuns me into a sad stupor. I think these guys are champs with a sophomore slump that has its own Lazarus complex. Their 1st, 3rd, and 5th albums have been real winners, to use the vulgar parlance, but the interim, or “sophomore”, efforts between these have been kind of… slumpy.
Observe the three album covers above. Each one seems to have the same sort of abstract curve-shaped thing dominating the theme of the image, a progression from a dense/large abstraction to a tapered and tinily branched end. These are also the three albums that this band has put out that have rocked the most solidly, pardon my French.
Now, examine below “Out of Tune” and “Spoon and Rafter”, the second and 4th albums.
Whereas the 1st, 3rd, and 5th records feature cover art that is more or less completely abstract- the closest we come to a concretely identifiable image among the art selected for that group is a sort of zen line drawing thingy- the records that stand out from the Mojave 3 catalog for undesirable reasons feature decidedly more concrete cover images. If Mojave 3 were Boards of Canada, “Out of Tune”‘s dreamy distended sunset surfer photo may have signalled warm puffy beat goodness. However, while this is not a bad record per se, it does mark a sort of uncomfortable shifting between the first album’s as-yet-shoegazey overtones to the wistful country rock this band now plays so well. That country rock sound on “Out of Tune” is a suit that isn’t yet worn as rakishly as it would soon be on the world-weary “Excuses” record. “Spoon and Rafter” was the record they put out with their own newly-assembled/acquired studio, a studio that gave them all kinds of ways to play with toys and studio time they wouldn’t necessarily have had access to when making their other records. It features some kind of a bucolic Americana/front-door bless-this-home crochet greeting doilly-style image. It is an image that is complex and vaguely trippy with all its colors and tapering lines, but it is still instantaneously recognizable as a drawing of flowers and a country scene. This is an unmistakable image. It may come as no surprise that this is also their weakest record. (I’m going to be embarrassed when someone emails to tell me I missed the thinly-veiled Uriah Heep “Demons and Wizards”-esque penis or vagina hiding in there.)
In each of their “concrete image” records the band can be heard making an audible effort to further their sound. In each of the “abstract image” records the band is at home with their mastered sound. I don’t have any idea what input the band has in their selection of record artwork, but might it be plausible that when the band is most concerned with the outcomes of creative risk it is reflected in the very grounded and worldly cover imagery they choose? Similarly, when the band is at the top of their form and un-self-consciously experimenting to fantastic effect with their sound, might that happy-go-luckiness be reflected in their devil-may-care, cult-of-the-instantly-ascertainable-fact-be-damned choice of wobbly cover art?
“Puzzles Like You” is really good, and it brings me back to a band I had wrongly written off after “Spoon and Rafter.” Here’s to ups and downs.