by Ryan Casey
Most refer to the transition of 2009 into 2010 as the start of a new year. The wiser ones amongst us refer to it as the beginning of the post-Mumford and Sons world: an unimaginable world where folk rock became cool again. A world where wave upon wave of pretenders to the throne gathered around the car stereo, begging for attention, craving mothers’ approval nationwide, like a girlfriend eager to make a strong first impression. Some succeeded: Frightened Rabbit, Laura Marling, and a whole host of critics’ darlings passed the initiation with flying colours. Others just sort of, faded into the background, unnoticed, or maybe just a little too flamboyant for acceptance.
The Bear’s Revenge, Southampton-based Moulettes’ sophomore release, is a difficult album. On one hand, it is grandiose and ambitious, with care and passion radiating from every one of the plethora of instruments on display. On the other, it is a mountainous slog to get through, that requires a significant amount of invested time and patience for it to be truly appreciated.
Even so, opening track ‘Sing Unto Me’ is probably about as good as things get. Nursery rhyme vocals and gently plucked guitar builds towards a tour-de-force of a crescendo, with finger clicking, violins, and an exquisite drum breakdown. It sees the band at their most immediate, whilst also offering enough originality to set them apart from the busy folk crowd.
‘Uca’s Dance’ is similarly appealing, the lovely violins reminiscent of Andrew Bird’s brilliant Break It Yourself from earlier this year. Impressive too, is the very beautiful ‘Half-Remembered Song’. It is not difficult to imagine the four-minute (mostly) instrumental accompanying the title credits of a film set in Venice. Perhaps somebody should experiment with this. The internet is, after all, your oyster.
Yet, for all this individual brilliance, The Bear’s Revenge is still a very difficult listen in places: an archetypal ‘treasure chest’ album. As atmospheric and moody as tracks such as ‘Muse Has Wings’ are, they just don’t seem to do quite enough to maintain the high standards set by some of the more bombastic accompanying songs. ‘Some You Love’ also suffers from its lack of, well, interestingness, overblown and stretched at over seven minutes in length. Whilst this duration is not a criticism, the niggling sense that it could have been a much more interesting song is frustrating, peaking in the first half, before fizzing out to an anticlimactic conclusion.
Moulettes certainly are not lacking in beauty, or ambition, that is for sure. What they are lacking in, however, is something significantly more crucial, and that is a coherent album that manages to maintain the listener’s attention throughout. The Bear’s Revenge is sometimes that album, making the less than impressive moments seem even more deflating. To return to the opening girlfriend analogy: good effort, pretty, and bubbling with personality, but sometimes a little bit over-enthusiastic for their own good.