Thursday, 28 November 2013

Moon Coastal Maine Review

Moon Coastal Maine
Philophobia Music

There's this villain in the DC Universe called Doomsday. He is, like, totally indestructible. He even kills Superman (apologies for the spoiler, readers from 1995).

Of course, Superman doesn't stay dead, and in a later storyline, one way he defeats Doomsday is to setup a series of teleporters on the moon; caught within the beam, he is transported from one to the next for eternity. Because 100% of his body mass is never present at anyone time, he can never escape.

That image comes back to me now, as I try to review Imp's debut album. No matter which angle I observe it from, or which expectation drives me, I simply can't see the whole thing. It's like it is evolving before by eyes (or, in my ears). I can't decide how I feel about it because as soon as I do, it is gone, and something else appears.

It's a record that has apparently been in the making for ten years; whether that means some sounds and songs stretch that far back or they've been twiddling their thumbs for that amount of time, I'm not sure. It is pre-dated by two excellent EPs on Philophobia Music and a reputation as the Wakefield bands band of choice.

Moon Coastal Maine is a tricky beast. Within its track listing is the third Imp EP, one that follows the intricate, lively, confusing, dreamy, noodly, fun, agonised over, free flowing Indie noise pop that genuinely turns heads whenever they come to town.

This is what I expected (and hoped for) from the album, and around a third of the fifteen tracks fall comfortably into this category and are without doubt amongst their best work. No-one else writes songs like this. And as I’ve noted before, they don’t even feel written; they just seem to fall into place. The supreme talents of all bands members are pushed to the fore, against sweeter than ever guitar interplay, and the dreamy 60s girl-pop element of the vocals ridden to the max. It’s great, unknown music, but instantly familiar.

That ten year gestation may suggest a slow approach to writing, but as the press release states, they have 250 songs stored up. This is where things turn slightly odd, and though many wouldn't want Imp any other way, it may alienate potential new fans who would adore the more classic, full band approach.

Essentially they are created by the songwriting duo at the core of the band and amount to home studio noodles. If these classify as 'songs' then yeah, I can easily imagine that they have 250 stashed away.

I'm not writing for Classic Rock Magazine here, so I'm not being sniffy about 60 second instrumentals, or woozy soundscapes. There's some great stuff here. But it results in an off-balance, schizophrenic album. The palette cleanser / main course balance feels wrong, and some of it; you just wish so hard they'd developed it, or got the rest of the band in.

Still, it does add a greater depth to the album, if the less conventional approach is to your liking. It is certainly a 'proper' album (trust me, those instrumentals sound even weirder if you've got your iPod on shuffle) made to be listened to as one, and has been crafted with care and attention to detail.

I just worry that it isn't the strongest debut album it could have been. Do debut album's matter anymore? Does it matter if it sells? It will be personal opinion as to whether it strays into self indulgence or not, but it does feel a little lacking in direction. It is unsure of itself, perhaps through trying too hard. What are Imp?

Maybe the posing of that question is the point, and if so, fair enough. The track-listing is tricky; perhaps a Low style two-sided approach would have been too obvious (there are plenty of fade-outs as per the Bowie standard), but it might have made more sense. I like to see it more like a White Album; everything and the kitchen sink, see what you find amongst the rubble.

So, Moon Coastal Maine is not the definitive Imp article. What debut is? Well… Yet I worry a confusing picture such as this hinders the chances of more people hearing them. Because I REALLY want them to.

But there is so much to search through, including the best stuff they've done, so who I am to complain?  See, see, SEE! I can’t finish this review. Because it keeps circling around and around.

The bottom line, literally, is that this is an ambitious album, combining the best but also most obtuse work of a unique and visionary band that will keep you busy for months, yet still leaves you wanting more. And is a reviewers worst headache. There. Done. Go listen now.

Dean Freeman

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