Monday, February 02, 2009

I just suddenly feel like commenting on a discussion about Momus's recent albums. Some people think they're not as good as his old stuff. Some people disagree.

However, what strikes me more than whether the noughties are "better" or "worse" than earlier decades, is that the new albums recapitulate earlier trajectories.

The best for me (qualified by not having heard Joemus) is Oskar Tennis Champion, which I think is possibly one of the top 5 Momus albums.

Oskar Tennis Champion is a "peak" Momus album (like Hipopotomomus) where the audio experiments are really radical, the lyrics are brilliant (clever, funny, interesting), the melodies are strange but catchy, the images powerful, and everything hangs together in a coherent sort of way.

On the other hand, the next album, Otto Spooky, is (IMHO) the worst Momus album of all. It's a "tired" album like The Philosophy of Momus, where the clever parts don't save it from the fact he's largely run out of ideas and treading water. Some songs (Sempreverde, Lute Score) are just one good idea stretched further than necessary. Many songs on the album are less than one good idea (Belvedere, Your Fat Friend, Klaxon, Robin Hood, Jesus in Furs) or mere washes of atmosphere.

A couple of honourable exceptions : Cockle Pickers and the musically extraordinary Bantam Boys are one-idea songs but justify their existence because the result is striking.
And there are a couple of songs which could potentially be a strong matrix of idea, tune and imagery (Life of the Fields and Corkscrew King) which are let down by pedestrian and lifeless arrangements.

As with The Philosophy of Momus (which shares similar problems) Momus then follows with an example of what I'd call one of his "crowd pleaser" albums : Ocky Milk. These tend to be raids on the back-catalogue, consolidating the good from the earlier experiments with great tunes and pleasant arrangements. Previous examples are 20 Vodka Jellies in the 90s and maybe Monsters of Love at the end of the 80s. "Crowd-pleasers" tend to be far more enjoyable than the "tired" albums but don't excite the way that the peak albums do.

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