Overlooked Albums #26: Throw Me The Statue - Moonbeams
As a music lover, you spend valuable hours, months, years looking for your favourite albums; but sometimes great albums find you. It was actually while writing for another publication that I was asked to review Moonbeams by Throw Me The Statue, a random promo from a band I’d never heard of. I won’t lie: as a red-blooded male, I was taken in by the semi-naked girls on the album cover, and immediately felt a kinship with the artist who felt it necessary to adorn his debut record with this striking image. The music’s pretty ravishing, too.
Some acts owe their success - at least in part - to getting the right coverage, the right record label or the right promotion. Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are two good examples, both benefiting from the backing of major online publications and a whole lot of word-of-mouth. Had Throw Me The Statue been given the right push, I’m confident they too would have made waves. The handful of reviews that exist speak for themselves - Moonbeams was well-received by more or less all the critics who came across it, but that’s the problem: not many did.
What makes this album particularly impressive is that it’s a DIY job - legend has it that it was mostly recorded in songwriter Scott Reitherman’s bedroom. The CD inlay has a photo of Reitherman sat on a wooden floor, surrounded by all manner of musical gadgetry (and a cat). In many respects, it does sound self-produced; the fuzzy Casios and tinny drum machines sound like they belong to someone who hasn’t quite got round to buying better gear yet, while overdubbed recordings don’t quite fit the ambience of the rest of the track. Reitherman's voice isn’t always the strongest, sometimes struggling to reach the higher notes. But this is one of those albums that prove you don’t have to spend a fortune on production if you’re talented enough. Minor flaws aside, it’s actually very nicely recorded, with layers upon layers of instruments gradually revealing themselves with repeated listens. It’s well worth investing the time.
In short, this is indie pop at its finest. Shades of Pavement, Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, The Postal Service, The Dodos, Rogue Wave et al crop up over the course of the album, and it’s every bit as diverse as that may suggest. Every track here has something different to offer, never threatening to re-tread old ground, always moving forward. In many ways it’s a collection of songs, rather than a cohesive sequence of tracks - and while some albums fail to hang together on that basis, here it just keeps things feeling fresh.
Young Sensualists, a tale of who friends who grew apart over a girl, is a fantastic opener that perhaps epitomises the album as a whole. Arriving on gentle, subdued synths, it slowly comes to life with a rattling drum machine and an ever-so-slightly off-timed bassline that seems to cling to the edges. The plucked violin harmony that breaks up the verses is a thing of simplistic beauty that will burrow its way into your brain. It’s little touches like this that set Moonbeams apart.
There are so many other great moments: the snarling staccato synth line in Yucatan Gold as Reitherman yowls: “She’s a crazy animal when she screams / But in my head I wanted this, it seems”; the gloomy keyboard interlude at the end of A Mutinous Dream that sounds like the best soundtrack to a SNES game ever; the little bursts of trombone that punctuate Groundswell. The whole album just buzzes with authenticity: it’s not the most polished, but it is completely unpretentious.
But let’s not forget the most important point: that this is a beautifully written album, with a wealth of variety that never comes close to predictable. The chances are it’s not in your record collection, but it most certainly should be.21 August, 2012 - 07:39 — Joel Stanier