Review: Mohair – Small Talk
Mohair is a four-piece from Watford, England and I think their debut album, Small Talk, is one of the overlooked gems of 2006. The album leads off with “Talk of the Town” which comes on as a typical, albeit uncommonly tight and confident guitar pop track until the band breaks into an astonishing vocal break that completely transforms the tune into something special and unique. The whole album is like that. The band takes multple styles (Franz Ferdinandish new new wave, sunny California guitar pop, indie rock etc.) and makes them their own with surprising twists and combinations. You may not like every tune but you won’t feel like you’re listening to a band that does the same one or two things over and over.
Much of Small Talk works as well as it does because the individual members of the band are very good musicians. “End of the Line” starts with a rolling piano intro reminiscent of the silent movie era before breaking into a catchy oompah verse and chorus driven by hammered piano chords. A dreamy vocal passage then leads into a raucous piano + trumpet instrumental break. It rocks. The trumpet is played by drummer Pete Baker who is one of the reasons why the band is so good. Unlike many rock and pop drummers who play basically the same hammer-the-snare-on-the-backbeat lick on every tune, Baker provides each song with a different percussion line that complements the other instruments and vocals. In a completely different mood “Ella May” initially comes across as a bit childish and sweet which doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the album until you realize the singer is singing to his baby daughter. Then the musical accompanyment works perfectly. With it’s Beatlesque vocal harmonies the song would be the perfect counterpart to McCartney’s “When I’m 64” if it had been scored with a string section. Three of the four band members sing and the vocals on “Ella May” are just one example of the fine vocal work that is usually displayed in exquisite backup harmonies.
Small Talk is a terrific album that grows with repeat listening. This is a band that doesn’t deserve to get lost in the shuffle.
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