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Moth Wranglers | Never Mind the Context (Magnetic)
A spirited collaboration between Flare honcho, LD Beghtol (also part time singer on the Magnetic Fields' '69 Love Songs') and ex-King Missile man Chris Xefos, the first Moth Wranglers album has much to recommend it, not least of which a title that manages to pun on both Derrida and the Sex Pistols. The opening, a-cappella, I Will Never Marry is short and charming, a neo-spiritual in a secular age. Next up is a sprightly, bouncing pop concoction, Turnabout, which, if you listen a bit closer, is the lurid tale of our very own sex slayer Dennis Nielsen (whose cookery book "The Way I Like It" is due for publication this Christmas.) It's melodic, charming and mordantly trenchant (did I mention it was also a fiddle led hoe-down?) The epic Six Page Letter is all slow burning menace, music living in suspended animation, reaching the deathly thrills so ably achieved by Ai Phoenix on their recent album. Then, just as you think you've pinned the band's sound down as one thing or another, the Wranglers throw a curveball like the aching, acoustic California cocaine country of Miss Fire or the suicidal drips of Over and Out. The Last Request of Mr. Ezra I- is a gorgeous sparse and desolate piano ballad whose melody will haunt you through the night while Counts For Nothing paraphrases the Song of Songs over a tightly coiled, hypnotic guitar riff. If that's not enough for you, how about the Gil Scott Heron quoting, oompah pumping, music hall shanty Figure- ground which sounds like Tom Waits lost in another century. There's a wealth of eclectic instrumentation ranging from Ukuleles to Marxophones to Aqualins (whatever they are) on this record creating a dense fabric of textures and though they're aided by such luminaries as Stephen Merritt, Ken Stringfellow and AMC's Bruce Kaphan, the sound is entirely (and indubitably) their own. If you're bored with the usual line-ups and arrangements and fancy something a bit more challenging, a scurrilous poke through the layers of alter-music, then this record could be just right for you.
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002