4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Undulating, dreamy stoned lullabies for grown ups, 5 Aug 2013
So here we have it - the electronica album Alison Moyet has been promising fans for years. Never an artist to simply go with the flow just to keep record company suits smiling, even her return to a genre she helped invent isn't as straightforward as she could have so easily made it.
Teaming up with musical maestro Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Robyn) , 'the minutes' takes us on a trip - Moyet mentioned several times that she thought the album sounded quite 'prog'....and she's not wrong. From the majestic Bond-like orchestral flourish that announces the album opener (and highlight) 'Horizon Flame' right through to the ethereal Cocteau Twins meets Enigma meets Pendulum closing bars of Rung by the Tide, this is an album that seductively coaxes us on a journey and ensures we stay with her right to the end.
'Horizon Flame' is an icy, gorgeous taste of things to come, more of a stream of thought than a structured song, it works on every single level. The undulating backing against a stunningly understated vocal, you have to admire an artist who despite being able to take the roof off most concert halls with her range (and I've been there and can stand witness that this is the case), is confident enough in her talent to begin a much-lauded 'comeback' album with a song that feels like a soothing lullaby that sometimes sounds like she's making it up as she goes along. Which is in no way a criticism, in fact far from it - in these days of everything being so hideously overblown and over-structured, to hear a singer of this magnitude so beautifully underplay the vocals on here, that's really quite something. It's on the opening track that the partnership between Moyet and Sigsworth REALLY works. Yes, it's akin to Madonna/William Orbit's opus `Frozen' with the sweeping strings.... But it's hands-down better. Simple. Every listen springs a new melody, a new sound.... the beautiful deftness of touch and craftsmanship here from both Alison and Mr Sigsworth is breathtaking. As album openers go, Horizon Flame really does take some beating. Possibly one of the greatest tracks this fine lady has ever recorded.
The baffling nay-sayers who moan about Alison using electronica on this album must have been asleep for the first half of the 80s - this is the genre she knows and loves and has unfortunately just not explored anywhere near enough throughout her career. The bright sheeny pop... if you think these 80s songs in any way explained Alison Moyet .... You'd best donate `the minutes' to charity and go hunting for something by Belinda Carlisle.
From Horizon Flame we move onto the jagged, stuttering 'Changeling', a song seemingly about the misery of getting stuck in traffic jams or the fright of losing your child in public. No Moyet lyric is that simple, though, so it probably means something else, but who knows? Uber-modern, squealy, abrasive sounding and damn funky in a Prince kinda way, Changeling was the first taste of this album when Alison premiered it through here website earlier this year. Collective jaws were dropped, and rightly so. It's a cracker of a song and there's some very tasty remixes of this out there now, too. Another great thing is that none of the minutes overstays its welcome - it's a relatively short album and the tracks are perfectly timed (and the running order has obviously been chosen with great care to ensure it flows. It does.)
Next up is the first single from `the minutes', the hmm... pleasant enough `When I Was Your Girl'. Sounding like a b-side from the `Essex' era, this left fans collectively drop-jawed when it was announced as the first single. Baffling. An electronica album with a jingly jangly lead single...hm... well it IS Alison Moyet - nothing is ever that straightforward. Which is half the appeal - life for an Alison Moyet fan has taken some decidedly unexpected turns over the years ;-). Some liked the first single, some hated it. Some were utterly unmoved by it. It is what it is - but it was a staggeringly strange choice for the first single from this album. Apparently Radio 2 loved this one most (which explains the prolonged a-listing), hence the decision to release this as the first single.
`Apple Kisses' is a snarling, electro glam stomper that channels Marc Bolan, early Roxy Music and Black Cherry/Supernature era Goldfrapp. One of Moyet's most seductive and come-hither vocals, this is a seriously brilliant track that would sound great on radio. And speaking of sounding great on radio - next we have `Right as Rain', the most sassy and electro-ey track Alison has recorded since Yazoo. Bold, brash, sassy and stylish - THIS is the one Ms M should have released. It's excellent, and one can only imagine how great the remixes of this could be. Featuring that famous wasp-in-a-bottle riff and a thumping, NYC-inspired bassline, yes, Ms Moyet - this is possibly the finest solo track you've made to date. With a sneering, spiteful lyric, Right as Rain is the obvious choice for single release, I think. It's seriously...well...brilliant. And just wait til you hear it live......
`Remind Yourself' is a gorgeous, lilting track about paranoia and trust, a song bursting with claustrophobia at times, and so sweet it makes you melt at others (just listen to the `drumbeat in your chest' line and listen to how genuinely overawed and actually happy this lady sounds). My only reservation with this one is Mr Sigsworth's backing track for the whole of the first 2 minutes is uneasily similar to Massive Attack's seminal `Teardrop'.
The second single from the album, `Love Reign Supreme' is as close to creamy pop perfection as it's legally allowed to be. A glorious, loved up summer anthem with some great teasing stop/start bits, this is another track that sounded simply magnificent on the radio. This is easily better than all the 80s hits she had rolled into one...... a classic single. Lyrically damn clever, too.
`A Place to Stay' is, I suppose, the only `real' ballad on here. It's a shockingly great track, but there are times when Guy's production almost drowns it - it's just a bit too `in your face' and a little noisy. Yes, I love high drama and crescendos, but sometimes less is definitely more. Not sure what effects they use on the Moyet vocals on this, either, but they sound a little too harsh. But it's such a truly brilliantly written song, it's hard to find real fault with it.
`Filigree' is probably the most Yazoo-sounding track here - written about a stoned visit to a cinema in Amsterdam to watch The Tree of Life. The song's a whole load more decipherable than the movie, but it's still one of the more twee, lighter moments on the album.... Again, almost lullaby-like, it's a track I must confess to always skipping.
`All Signs of Life' is a kind of lovesong to Alison's husband David, a brilliantly written observation of his full-on fitness training. Another fine and brave track, the final 30 seconds are nothing short of inspired and rather... well... bananas. Sounding like The Prodigy on M-Cat, it has to be heard to be believed. Brilliant.
Finally we have the gorgeously dark and brooding `Rung By The Tide', all majestic Game of Thrones-like imagery and the real centre of the `prog' end of this album. Musically it's blacker than black, lyrically it's astonishing (`salute me sentry hollyhock.... Exploding dandelion clock'). You have a glorious sense of relief that those people still wanting re-runs of `Invisible' and 12" mixes of `Love Resurrection' will have vacated the building by the time the last wheezes and crashes of this opus have ended.
This isn't a good album - it's a brilliant one. An essential purchase by one of THE greatest artists of our generation. Yes, Ms M looks fabulous at the moment.... But the important thing is that she sounds fabulous too, and for the first time in years, she sounds gloriously alive and rejuvenated. I dare anyone to buy this, play it, and to not love at least half of it.