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Monsters Of Folk
Monsters Of Folk Thom Ward , October 6th, 2009 08:31

Monsters Of Folk, comprising Jim Jones (My Morning Jacket), Matt Ward (M. Ward/She & Him), Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (both Bright Eyes) might, on paper, read as the next Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with a creative dynamic that ought not disappoint.

Opener 'Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)' makes an endearing and ethereal start, snatching percussive samples from Trevor Dandy's 1970 song 'Is There Any Love'. The gospel feel of the original track is overlaid with a heavenly soul of rousing harps and synthesisers, as Jones, Ward and Oberst snatch a verse of theological rumination. The result is quite beautiful, if somewhat of a take on 'Take That turns indie'.

Single 'Say Please' jogs casually along to Conor's rather maudlin vocal until Mike rips through the middle eight with a stadium-structured solo, distinctly stirring what is rather a dull track into life. This is not the first occasion on which Mike saves the album with his Jeff Lynne-style of production and surreptitious layering of instruments. Unfortunately, though, repeated listens reveal that this album is beyond hope of being saved even by his hands.

Vocally, Oberst and Ward take the centre stage on many of the 15 tracks, yet their performances are curiously many dry and devoid of any emotional gain (similar to those on many of their previous releases away from MOF, then). However, when they do conjure any form, they do it well: 'Whole Lotta Losin'' sees Matt flourish melodically over one of the better album tracks; it's followed by Conor's sombre intonations that unveil “The love we made at gunpoint wasn't love at all” during the pensive distillations of the travelling 'Temazcal'.

Stylistically, the album doesn't falter: plaudits are due to Jim and Mike for their technical additions and structural direction. The cohesiveness of the players shines through on the likes of 'Map of the World' (an unravelling narrative that broods with vocalised timbres), while and the vocal baton is passed throughout 'Baby Boomer' as if by an Olympic 4x100 track team turned troubadours.

Yet it's certainly an overly long record — tracks such as 'Slow Down Jo' and 'Magic Marker' fall under the radar, lacking the certain soul you'd expect from a unit of marketable musicians. Monsters Of Folk ultimately ends up being somewhat sub-par and schmaltzy, the band just another indie rock supergroup to blindly buy into.