The Moles – Instinct

June 10, 2008

The Moles


For better or worse, Richard Davies’ orchestral obsessions took hold on the Moles and the result is Instinct. Now, I really love this mini-lp and his eventual shedding of his grubbier past for peacock feathers and strings with Cardinal, but it was kind of shocking and abrupt. Untune the Sky, his earliest efforts posted on the blog a few days ago, saw Davies’ mastery of a fuzzy, sort of off-kilter psychedelic indie pop song. Instinct finds Davies unhappy with past efforts and he has shaken the Moles to the core.

Instead of English Nuggets, indie-pop and the Bats, Chills and Verlaines, we find Van Dyke Parks and Nilsson as new bedmates. To be honest, this comparison isn’t totally honest because I still haven’t heard a parallel to some of the sounds found here. I remember some godawful term called “ork-pop” used to describe Cardinal, but i cannot protest too much since I repeatedly cited the term “post-rock” when I worked for Alternative Press. Neither are appropriate. There is something inherently prog about all of these tracks, but the influence of Untune the Sky grounds it before it gets too floofy.

I sound conflicted, but I really do love this album. Davies’ remains a wordsmith in the vein of the Davies’ brothers and and truly has a way with words. He builds worlds within songs and if you but into his musical worldview, it is a rich experience. I like Untune the Sky better, but this middle ground is very enlightening in the context of what comes after. What comes after? Well, I will post the rest throughout the week.

The Moles

Untune the Sky

I don’t say this often or maybe I do, but this is one of the top ten albums ever. I don’t expect all of you to agree because this decision is based on a deep love of the Flying Nun label, grubby pop epics, the Beatles and kitchen sink attempts at grandeur. Their frontman, Richard Davies, went on to achieve further brilliance with Eric Matthews in Cardinal and embarked on a foppish direction under his own name. All he has touched is pretty essential, but this collection of their singles and earliest works is the premature pinnacle of a worthwhile career.

Listening to this it is hard to believe it was conceived in Australia instead of New Zealand because it sounds as if the hand of Flying Nun uber producer Chris Knox has mucked with some of these tracks. Then you hear a track like “What’s the New Mary Jane” and you realize that this band had far grander aims than some obscure slot on a mixtape. If you sank some money into a creme de la creme studio and producer, it would have begat brilliance or a red hot mess. Me, I shall never know, but think about the possibilities of this band whenever I listen to this one.

This is a trite and pointless statement, but this would be dry humped by 60s aficionados if released in the way back when. However, its lineage isn’t traced to the “brah, yeah” or magical dragons in my hamper ethos of 60s Nuggets and psych, but a unlikely combo of the Beatles, Kiwipop, 90s indie pop and the pastoral charms of Bill Fay’s work if he were more inclined to cheer up.