Behind The Sun
, March 20th, 2014 08:38
Despite bearing the type of name you'd expect a half-arsed garage band to adopt (from a Russ Meyer film, if you were wondering), Motorpsycho have become (over a period of 25 years) Norway's most successful, and certainly most prolific, alt rock band. Starting off with a post-grunge, pre-Radiohead sound, they've gradually embraced their inner Floyd and evolved over time into a stoner/psych/prog amalgam who've produced some of the best out-rock of recent years. In fact, it's hard to think of many other bands of their vintage who are still making new music of this quality, particularly given that they continue to release albums at a rate of one every 18 months or so.
Whereas previous albums have sometimes veered towards in-your-face bombast, Behind The Sun is more of a grower, though what emerges is one of their most consistent and cohesive releases to date. While there might not be anything as monumentally rifftastic as 'Hell, Parts 1-3' from last year's Still Life With Eggplant or audaciously jazz-prog as 'Starhammer' from Heavy Metal Fruit, the songwriting throughout is confident, a little less showy than usual, and dare I say more mature.
Though obviously that's relatively-speaking, as there's still plenty of thrills along the way here. Aided and abetted by Reine Fiske from Swedish fellow travellers Dungen, the overall sound on Behind The Sun puts me in mind of a Nordic Queens of the Stone Age slugging it out with late-70s Yes, while Neil Young officiates from behind a giant Mellotron. Opening track 'Cloudwalker' encapsulates this perfectly with its fluid, crunchy riffing and a great ascending chorus that singer and bassist Bent Sæther delivers like a ballsier Jon Anderson.
'Ghost' cops more of the Young vibe, its lovely perambulating acoustic riff, Slint-esque vocal and personal lyrics emphasising that this album is more about the little details than grand sweeping gestures, such as the final dissolve here into a mist of discordant strings. In contrast, 'On A Plate' is pure Grand Funk Railroad, with a riff that's so 70s it's funny, bucking and roiling like a tethered dinosaur being dragged into a modern day circus.
'The Promise' is perhaps the best track on the album, its ecstatic vocal, super-dynamic rhythm and guitars you want to eat summing up everything that's great about Motorpsycho in a single song. 'Kvæstor' mines that Yes seam circa Drama once again, and while it sprawls a bit, it's a great display of musical chops if nothing else. 'Hell, Parts 4-6' returns to the more personal feel of 'Ghost', its swinging acoustic riff mutating into a brazen strut, before a gentle breakdown full of fluting Mellotron leads into a cosmic rocking finale.
'Entropy' invites us to imagine a world where Neil Young followed up Harvest with a concept album about thermodynamics, while 'The Magic & The Wonder' is another tight slice of proggy pop/rock, packed full of colour and detail. The album closes with 'Hell, Part 7', a blast of biker dude rock with tortured vocals in uncomfortable counterpoint to the Hendrix-y blues funk riff. The deliberate lack of focus is a bit disorientating, and perhaps the only real misfire here.
In truth, Behind The Sun could easily lose a couple of tracks and increase its impact, but Motorpsycho conspicuously always want to provide a fully immersive, all-or-nothing headtrip to the listener – and in this day and age, for that we should be very grateful indeed.