The Moles Tonight’s Music

[Fire; 2016]

Styles: mixtape sprawl, deliberate inanity, chopped textbook
Others: The White Album, Stereo/Mono, Endless/Blonde

I sit on the couch with The Moles, hoping my headphones will blot out the vacuum’s holler. I press play:

“Oh mighty sun, light up the fire in the sky.”

Was the sound better this morning, me driver’s-seating my way to work with the janky Apple Classic shoving its unzipped, extracted lossy sounds through Civic speakers?

“Oh mighty sun, light up the fire in the sky.”

Was it more honest in that first month of 2000, snapped up in winter coats outside Times Square’s Virgin monolith, all our clipped digits ready to pry glossy wrap away from D’Angelo’s molten Voodoo , a cool mass of millions searching out body heat?

“Oh mighty sun, light up the fire in the sky.”

Is the needle more erotic, the spinning void of vinyl cut of a huskier soul? I know, I know: to sip the rye in the corner of the bar where Duke sits, shifts, spins a cartography of cool is to be transformed; crouch in corners of the room with the first eight years of Mozart for the primal composition, listen to Symphony No. 1 explode the Vienna airspace and your whole self transcends.

We put so many things between us and our songs. Morphing mediums, methods of release (as if songs are wild beasts of wonder, liable to be locked up); we search out our selves in songs but stop along the way to deposit a membrane (Spotify’s rancid ads) or a mythology (reverence for a past feels irreverent presently).We see ourselves in the art, but we have to squint; we process from a distance. Between me and The Moles: a vacuum and headphones, condensed digital formatting, and this weird repeating mantra about the sun, about the sky, and then:

It’s been a straaange summer” comes tumbling from the corner of Richard Davies’s mouth, a conclusion to an acoustic and electric bowing at each other, both falling over, laughing, getting up. There’s the loll and snap of a guitar and a lazy snare, a few more disconnects: “Window shopping, café society/ Cobwebs and curtains, women in raincoats/ Waves crashing over and over/ She’s an actress, not a waitress.” Everything is here. Everything is important. I stop worrying about legacies and release dates, feel weighted words slide off the easy pop of Tonight’s Music. “Bye, bye, bye, she’s on my mind/ It’s a strange straaange time,” and it’s there, something that can mean to me. I stop seeing the membrane, stop assessing the method because I know a she (an actress, on my mind), a time (we’re all weird in the upheaval periods spaces between winters and summers, summers and autumns); I know where the extra a’s in straaange stem from. I put them there; we’re in the good songs, if we let them in us.

Tonight’s Music collects the first new songs from The Moles in a long while. The legacy there is muddy: The Moles dug around in those half-remembered 90s, two EPs, a full length (1993’s Untune the Sky, sunny baked and cold chaos, proof that pop bent far enough turns punk). The Moles get good press, The Moles break up, get back together, disappear. The Moles never existed, maybe, aside from being the “incognito pseudonym synonym nom de guerre pen name” of Richard Davies. There’s legacy at stake with Tonight’s Music and juicy pop mythologies: a new release from a voice we like that we don’t hear often, the slow-moving curator of a real underground sound, something like an honest indie.

Histories and mythologies distort. Legacy distracts. All we have, all we need, is in the songs. Invoke the Muse (“Oh mighty sun, light up the fire in the sky”); if you want to talk about people, talk about songs.

Tonight’s Music is an accumulation, the sound of a human body processing a span of years, tracklist biology. Davies navigates his self with a restless demo-confidence, a lazy lazer focus. “Chills” runs like good basketball, each single tone supporting the court poetry, shades of Westerberg wash”Red Carpet” and “Artificial Heart,” something ramshackle but with locomotion.”Needle and Thread,” a searching but also a concluding: Tonight’s Music sounds like this, songs that begin and finish. But then the freak-out suite of “Highbury & Islington,” the boxcar nightmare honk of “Home for the Hobos,” the stuttering “Room Temperature” with its fragments of sample and spoken word and mimicked sections of McCartney and Harrison tunes. Is there a proper medium cooking temperature for songs? Does pop work best when served with less resistance?

There’s a mythology to collections like Tonight’s Music, to the sprawling adventuring of a double-album’s excess. “Indulgent,” someone tssks, “we’re our own worst editors,” another waggles. A chorus of “no focus no focus no focus.

Poetry doesn’t register on an efficiency scale. Histories and mythologies distort. It’s worth relearning the legacies of songs and of words. “Focus” is loaded, meant to quantify, what, care? Intention? “Unfocused” implies a mess, which is what Tonight’s Music is, all blendered kitchen sink, songs investigating an art and a life. The good messes resist comparison, buck resolution (our live are processes; who wants an art that bottoms out?) but it’s worth relearning the myths of release and format: Tonight’s Music is a mixtape, in our modern understanding of mixtape as uncovery. Endless isn’t Slight, Blonde isn’t Important; we get it all together (everything is here, everything is important). Entrañas isn’t a preceding agent, because sometimes we’re not on our way to another point. Tonight’s Music celebrates the space between the excessive and the unfinished, refusing us resolution, promising us a little everything. Focus means restless, not resolute. There is no honest way to hear a sound, no perfect way to be a self. Discard membrane, desert mythology: it’s all the good songs want from us.

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