by tom johnson
Our very favourite music, and I mean the stuff that reverberates in those bodily places that don’t have a name, seem to hold a striking balance between rabid, glowing meaning and gut-punching poignancy. The former is easy to pin-point: it’s in the words, it’s in the buoyancy of the instrumentation, in the atmosphere that the whole thing is delivered within. The latter is more difficult to define. Just as our favourite memories also stir a sense of sadness – the inability to revive them in real time, for the time that’s passed since and the changes that have occurred – so too certain songs feel laced with melancholy even when, on the surface, they’re anything but.
Mothpuppy’s new record is all of that and more. Opening track “Kilgore Falls“, one-minute and forty-four seconds of leaping vocals and stirring violin, is the gleaming epitome of it, in fact. On initial listens I found it to be wildly invigorating, but then it settled, and changed, and now I want to fucking sob nearly every time I listen to it. The music remains exhilarating and it’s backed up by a lead vocal that burns with realness, the bottled-up sound of making the most of a day that lies right there in front of you. “All my songs are just letters and I hope they reach you some day,” Morgan Murphy sings with a gusto and buried sense of longing that feels crushingly pertinent, even to those of us on the outside of such a story.
This kind of unbridled desire for making the most of what you’ve got is wonderfully invigorating but it feels beaten down, for much of the record, by life’s (and other people’s) ability to shackle such things. The album takes many twists along its journey, a tale of gross male machismo on “Basketball Court” is powerfully unsettling, while the fragile but utterly compelling “Follow Thru”takes it somewhere else entirely.
Murphy is Mothpuppy’s focal-point throughout and while the band is billed as a five-piece, her guttural voice and poetic words pitch her as chief protagonist, and she positively thrives in such a role, presenting a sustained and continual slideshow of emotional honesty that joyously comes alive in the form of pop songs; the five-minutes of “Space”, for example, a gleaming example of all the frayed fortitude of their craft coming together in exquisite, empowering, emotive majesty.
That sense of unshackled outpouring continues in to the following track “Cranberry Juice”, a brilliantly resounding, jagged piece of guitar-pop which closes with Murphy bellowing the line “I know that I’m alive, I don’t know why. Well maybe I would have died a long time ago, but I’m still here.” A definitive, poignant example of the record’s journey from that initial seizing-of-the-day to full blown declarations of defiance in the face of it all, the track might well be Mothpuppy’s calling card; an emphatic message, in the arms of a gleaming composition, delivered with all the bluster that we hope always shapes our favourite art. And a message that continues to resonate each and every time we meet it.
‘Cool & Pretty’ is available on limited edition tape, via Sad Cactus