Moo You Bloody Choir
phantom leg itches fire. The mind feels the missing limb. Still there. It attributes pain, tingling, sharp, maddening, to that lost. Empty space, shapes of air fixed in the mind as that nub still present, is given a life of odd flesh. It’s allowed to flow with nonsense blood and flex with sinew.
That, too, is a love lost, regained as something whose sudden absence is palpable. Australian quintet Augie March has long since mastered this notion of deserted sense, voided pairings of skin and love. If you haven’t heard them yet, you’re M.I.A., but the band’s third album, Moo You Bloody Choir, is as noble a starting point as any.
For those of you familiar with this Stylus fave however, Moo You Bloody Choir will prove more a refining and continuation of the band’s brand of Outback cliff-gazing than a fresh start. Their adoration of antiquated song structures and Beatles-derived harmonies retains its luster here; there’s plenty of sky, sea-salt, and grit, sanded-down to a glass fine point in Glenn Richards’ jellyfish voice and the band’s well-honed arrangements. In short, Moo trades in the kind of ‘old-hat’ whose fabric still feels fresh, soft to the head and heart no matter how home-spun its origins.
Opener and first single, “One Crowded Hour,” is all but the distillation of this sound. Atop a gently ringing guitar and a muffled chorus of “ooh”s, Richards finds love within a bar’s candle-gloom. He gains focus as the piano and electric keys enter the supple fray. “Now should you expect to see something that you haven’t seen / In somebody you’ve known since you were sixteen.” Richards’ quaint poesie is at the helm here, as always. His language is stumbling and broken, but sanded around the verbs and all those patient diphthongs; that’s his command. Given his obvious songwriting talent, it’s nice to hear the band clear the floor for a while and allow him room to maneuver his plum-soft voice into the band’s restraint.
Elsewhere, “Stranger Strange” floats odd and bountiful on hovering keystrokes and dual guitars, billowed by Kiernan Box’s expert string arrangements. If “Mother Greer” sounds like The Replacements got stuck in a hailstorm in Nebraska and decided to swell out an aching country-pop jaunt as lightning struck the lights out, then “Just Passing Through” is the band taking pitchforks to the cows and burning down their erstwhile midnight home. “Honey Month” is a steamy Dixieland swoon cum three AM waltz, and “Thin Captain Crackers” feeds on dry banjos and Richards’ slow-tongued delivery. As with so much of the material on Moo, it’s reminiscent of great stretches of the band’s work, but divergent enough to make it another favorite instead of just another lump in a pile.
In many ways, Moo is as direct a shot as you’ll ever get at Augie March (though at over sixty-six running minutes, Richards still has an ear to bend). “Bottle Baby,” for example, stumbles nakedly on piano and acoustic guitar, giving Richards again the space he needs to really stretch himself out properly, both vocally and lyrically. Cryptic, inscrutable: “So I don’t blame you / It’s my foot in my shoe / And I seem to have easily filled it.” Odd snatches of word from elsewhere sneak up into the song, though they don’t belong: “I wasn’t so drunk / That I didn’t hear you dreaming.” Was it that way, really: “Your story’s a small one / Your goods have no buyers / Your parents are raising your children.” He could be our Dylan or our Drake, as we drink our draught, but that’s so inane. Something critics say. He’s his own monolith, which is ever taller, the shadow or the tower, a throat given bellow or the trees in the forest.
Indeed, Richards and Augie March are beginning to make language and song so vile and necessary. Something missing, something accrued in loss, something still twitching after it’s severed. Their songs are a spore of wind and spit you can feel or cold-shoulder at your choosing. They are that lost limb, foul lawless heart, that nameless itching, and it’s about fucking time we found a band worthy of our scratching.