They say that debut albums are easy compared to what comes next, but I’ve never particularly thought so. You may have your whole life to come up with that first LP, but once it’s out there, that’s how the world sees you. Your nice little musical box- at least until you get the chance to shake it off, which can often take ages to achieve. Moon King’s debut, on the other hand, makes it clear that such an exercise would be futile here. Try as you might, it’s hard to really pinpoint one certain feel to Secret Life: kraut inspired, certainly, but delve a little deeper and there’s shoegaze, grunge, punk. And something else I just can’t put my finger on. All of these come together to form a sound that’s authentically them, for better or worse.
Each song on the album is distinct but intense, showcasing the sheer range of the Canadian duo, though there seems to be something a bit schizophrenic about the overall tone. What starts out as a dreamy, almost mystical record soon falls into somewhat of a haze. Title track Secret Life feels like falling down the rabbithole: dissonant guitars combined with the dreamy vocals of Maddy Wilde create a sense of being trapped in a beautifully bad dream that you don’t quite want to wake from. And If that’s the night before, Impossible is the morning after; the creeping piano bringing a sense of despair much akin to the throbbing headache gained after a night of debauchery.
But from here there seems to be much more of the same- synth, harmony and just a touch of weariness. While beautiful, there are times in which it does feel a bit draining; both emotionally and musically. Whilst it’s clear that Moon King want to go for that otherworldy aesthetic so common to shoegaze, the melodies at times seem to fade into the background at its expense. So it’s refreshing to have a bit of a breather on tracks like Apocalypse, its lazy vocals and Smashing Pumpkinsesque guitar riff highlighting just how powerful the duo can be without relying on the tried and tested. Hexe too, (probably my favourite) feels like a slap of the face after half an album of hypnosis, its punky vibrance revitalising what was in danger of becoming a rather languorous LP.
The sheer mix of emotional and musical styles at play here will definitely divide opinion, but if nothing else Moon King have ensured that they can move forward free of any musical baggage. On the whole it’s an interesting, if at times confusing album, which will no doubt translate to a sharp live performance.
Moon King- Secret Life
Out Now on Last Gang Records
Moon King are currently touring the UK alongside Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Catch them at one of the dates below:
Sun 17 GLASGOW Broadcast [HEADLINE]
Tue 19 LEICESTER Musician [HEADLINE]
Wed 20 BRISTOL Thekla [with UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA]
Thu 21 LONDON Islington Assembly Hall [with UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA]
Fri 22 LONDON Lock Tavern [HEADLINE]
Sun 24 LIVERPOOL Sound City