Songs We Like to Listen to While Travelling Through Open Space - The Moonband Album Review
Hippy alarms bells start to ring when you stare at an album cover with washed out painted space scene and astronauts all over it. Thoughts of Wakeman's cape and widdly keyboard solos spring instantly to mind. Run to the hills. But then, album covers are tricky things to get right. Many iconic images are absolutely on the nail - think the enigmatic prism on Dark Side of the Moon or the Paul Cannell splodge with eyes on Screamadelica. Both leave the casual browser wondering what kind of sonic delights are held within; a teasing, enticing thrill largely denied to us now by the digital age. Not so with The Moonband's CD which bears a cover that Roger Dean would have binned for being a bit 'too proggy'. The space rock theme continues with the inclusion of a 'Moon Book' containing lyrics, chords for the songs and an essay on 'What to Think of Before Entering a Spaceship.' Hang on. This is Space Ritual isn't it?
You may well have reasoned at this point that you fought the punk wars for nothing and be reaching for the shotgun. Hold fire, Tony Martin.
The Moonband, a five piece who hail from Germany, seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that they are voyagers from an entirely different planet altogether. The inside sleeve bears a black and white picture of the band resplendent in, er, moonwear which consists of rubber gloves, wellington boots and large glass helmets. Well, I'm sorry, but any band who choose to appear on the cover of their album wearing wellies is alright by me. Wellies rock.
Opening track 'Devil's Got a Piece of Us' belies any prog misapprehensions by only being a trifling 6 minutes wrong and containing no keyboard solos whatsoever. In fact, it's a rather pleasant acoustic strum - as is most of the album. Despite the odd sleeve and band image, this is a very warm, folkie sounding record indeed. Perfect, in fact for a dreamy float about in space which I suppose is the idea.
'Tom Waits', despite the excruciating title, sounds nothing like the grizzled curmudgeon himself and is another pleasant sounding acoustic plonk-a-long.
Stand out track 'In the Garden' is a beautiful, lilting plea to 'break free for an hour / Here in the garden' with exquisite harmonies. 'Days to Live' is a moody, well crafted song, all minor chords and whispered vocals about priests and used condoms or something.
'The Internist' is another gentle tune, flecked with Eugen Mondbasis' banjo and a bizarre lyric in which the protagonist implores the unseen subject of the song to 'Squeeze my eyeballs / Until all I can see is black / Cut my fingers / Cut my arms and my back.' There's some rum thoughts going through that boy's head and no mistake.
'The Hiker' is the final track and it's a stark, barren 7 minute strum which slowly builds into something resembling 'Wayfaring Stranger'; evocative, stirring and wouldn't sound entirely out of place on one of Johnny Cash's American Recordings series.
The Moonband would go down a treat on a misty evening at an atmospheric festival like End of the Road or Green Man. Find them onstage on a Friday afternoon at Reading and they'd be less effective (and probably covered in piss or on fire anyway). Imagine Air Unplugged and you'll be somewhere close to the atmosphere of this bonkers, beguiling, but very beautiful record. And not a cape in sight...
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