Toronto
3 min

Plaintive love

Don't go changin'

UK COUNTRY. Mojave 3. Credit: Xtra files

Everyone loves The Ramones. The Ramones never changed. They just kept doing that fast tempo rock ‘n’ roll pop, churning it out with simple lazy, enthusiastic abandon. God bless ’em.



New York’s rich boy rockers, The Strokes and Cornwall’s dreamy Mojave 3 have just released new albums. And like The Ramones, they’ve stayed true to formula, peppering it up just a tad and, yes, I still love them.



Mojave 3 may hail from England’s southern surfing town but their inspiration is American country/folk (music snob faves Gram Parsons and Hank Williams to name a few). Spoon And Rafter is the group’s fourth album and it’s a beaut. It’s a sullen bittersweet effort where loves are lost and questions are left unanswered.



On the first track “Bluebird Of Happiness,” a lone piano opens with the accompanying lyric, “Gotta find a way to get home strong/ gotta find a way back home.” Neil Halstead (singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer) sings these words ever so sweetly in a song of loneliness, despair and fear. His voice is soft and whispery – Neil Tennant with Nick Drake rising. Honest and straightforward, the song creeps up on you with every listen.



This is not an album that demands you to listen, it allows you to discover it.



On “Starlite #1,” a forlorn character is telling himself to get out of his self-imposed rut. “No I never wanted much/ and we’re old enough now to know you never want it till someone does.” A song for the gallant simpleton. “Is this highway the road to love or just a way to get to him.” Hmmm.



The group really shines on “Writing To St Peter.” The quiet tender intro of guitar and melodica makes way for throbbing bass lines and the drum hits pulsate beautifully as Halstead and Rachel Goswell sing, “You said lies are always better/ written in a letter/ ’cause they seem more real.”



“Hard To Miss You” contains my fave line, “They say the world’s a smaller place/ but they don’t say it to your face.”



This album is unbelievably stunning and hypnotic.



***

Julian, Albert, Fabrizio, Nick and Nickolai of The Strokes must be commended for not trying to prove themselves on their second album, Room On Fire. They did not get conceptual, hire an orchestra or sing with an MC. They just made a solid 35-minute, 11-song album. They also proved they are not the one hit wonders that, alas, was the fate of The Knack and Elastica (both brilliant and similar in vein).



With so much slick production happening in today’s music, it’s nice to hear a fuzzed up, raw and imperfect offering.



“What Ever Happened?” is the opening track, where they practically rip off the sampled Stevie Nick’s guitar riff on Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious.” Julian Casablancas screams plaintively, “I want to be forgotten/ and I don’t want to be reminded.” Guitars scrabble for their place and find it – pure angst pop, as divine as “Last Nite,” their brilliant single off the first album, 2001’s Is This It.



As the new album goes on, Julian seems to be dealing with life and girls, sex and time. There’s a repetitive lyrical thing going on and at times it gets as sad and lost as the late Ian Curtis’ work with Joy Division.



“12:51” is a great ’80s type tune, the folks are away and it’s time to fuck. On “You Talk Way Too Much,” Julian pleads, “Give me some time, I just need a little time.” On “Under control,” he moans, “I don’t want to waste your time” and “I don’t want to change your mind.”



Musically there is not much to say, they steal so much from so many different sources: The Velvet Underground, Guns ‘N’ Roses, The Cure. It’s just so hard to resist a three-minute pop song that rocks out in full force. The boys play joyfully with a cool cockiness that 20-something rockin’ straight boys all seem to have.



“Meet Me In The Bathroom” is an interesting piece with a great lyric finish. “Yeah, they were just two fucks in lust/ baby, that just don’t mean much/ You trained me not to love/ after you taught me what it was.” Hey, it’s Julian Casablancas’ party and he’ll cry if he wants to.



ROOM ON FIRE.

The Strokes.

BMG. $16.99



SPOON AND RAFTER.

Mojave 3.

4AD. $16.99.