Moose - High Ball Me

Le Grand Magistery
(HRH015: 616656001522)

What's more surprising? That London's Moose have finally secured a U.S. release for their fourth LP, High Ball Me!, after the first three were undeserved imports? (They were dropped by a hasty Virgin in 1992 after only one release, a cobbled-together, seven-song EP of their earliest, too-formative singles called Sonny and Sam, still the poorest intro to the group.) Or that Moose are still so damn sparkling after a decade, making them four-out-of-four terrific with wonderfully inspired LPs? Or that they're even still around at all, considering the obscurity they've suffered (and the five-year span since their last LP)? Again, nearly all their contemporaries from the 1989-1993 Camden dream pop scene have withered on the vine. But Moose, the group least reliant on that scene for its inspirations and sound (despite a longstanding friendship with Cocteau Twins, who brought Moose over as a support band on their final U.S. tour), have continued to prosper, at least musically. And what a thing of pacific beauty they remain! For High Ball Me! is another proud accomplishment from a group that's always made beguiling, sunny warm, expertly textured, well-conceived, and well-played LPs (think bossa nova ambience mixed with early Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb pop gems, a little like Ivy), while covering Wire and Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking." Each new album is like a group of songs to ice-skate to, so cool and menthol, so sweet and gliding, and High Ball Me! is yet another. One just falls for still-vintage Moose handiwork in "Keeping Up with You," "Pretend We Never Met," "The Only Man in Town" (previewed on Saltwater Records' teaser EP, Baby It's Over), like a secret schoolgirl crush. Ditto the sultry, snake-charming, violin-trimmed pop of the most unique offering, "Lily la Tigresse." Moose mainmen K.J. "Moose" McKillop and Russell Yates remain consummate stylists, infecting every selection with charm, and most of all, seductive hooks. When "Lily la Tigresse" asks, with luscious sexual entreaty, "Why can't we be as nature planned?," it sums up the grace of the LP as a whole. Few albums can match this one for sublime elegance, save for Moose's own -- ...XYZ (1992), and especially Honey Bee (1993), and Live a Little, Love a Lot (1995). Get them all, it says here. When one thinks of the numerous groups doing lighter lush-pop barely half as good as this one, it's a shame. But here's hoping that the allure of their adeptness, the radiance of their production, the crisp, fresh guitars, lithe bass, and nimble drums and accompanying touches, and the intelligent, loving tunes finally find their deserved home in the U.S. -- now that a prized LP of theirs can finally be had at a domestic price. High Ball Me! is not the sound of a tired band giving up its hard-won dream; it's the sound of musicians who are still following the most grand sounds in their heads. Lovely! - Jack Rabid

"Somebody give the Lord a handclap. After a lengthy sabbatical spent contemplating Jesus, the never-less-than-mighty Moose return with their 4th and most perfectly-formed album (and their first North American release since their brush with Virgin Records and their tour of the USA with The Cocteau Twins). "High Ball Me" is an as-near-as-dammit realisation of the perennial Moose fixations of classic 60s / 70s pop, heart shredding country & western, stellar songwriting (of the Nillson / Hazelwood school), and borderline-melodic guitar mangling. The amalgam of these influences is one of the best and most diverse pop albums of the century so far, and the greatest record the House of Love never managed to make despite always threatening to. With the emphasis always and firmly on tune and harmony, the 11 tracks rush forth in a swell of sweeping strings, shimmering guitars, rousing organs, rattling bongos, Joe Meek-esque antique effects, and too many other beautiful ideas to take in at once. Did i mention the Pale Fountains?" (review by Penny Black)

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