The press release for this, the first album by Aberdeen outfit Hookers Green No 1(named after a rare green paint in a watercolour set) invites comparison with former Beach Boy Brian Wilson. “We always loved how Brian Wilson managed to put things together and end up with a wall of sound” it reads, “it’s something we try to emulate”.
There’s no genius of that level on this album (it’s a pretty rare commodity to be fair), and if this is a wall of sound, it’s a very strange rickety wall made of old junk that may or may not actually be there. This is an odd record indeed, resting in the chasm between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ often known as ‘interesting’, while trying to redefine the concept of lo-fidelity in the process.
So let’s clarify that somewhat obtuse introduction – this album sounds like it’s been recorded in a bathtub. Or (to be precise) like the band assembled under a giant upturned tin bath, and a battered old microphone was suspended through the plughole. At times it also sounds like listening to Groove Armada, Saint Etienne or Funki Porcini, but through a wall.
It’s a deliberate effect, and one that adds a very downbeat sense of detachment to an often eerie and thoughtful journey through a mix of breakbeats, wibbly bits that recall The Orb in their Ultraworld heyday, and chilled out brass reminiscent of the aforementioned Groove Armada. A sense of desolation is present throughout, a bit like a musical version of the brief transformation from dismal gray to silver and back again that affects Aberdeen’s granite walls during a rainstorm.
On to the individual tracks, Love Ballad (For The Cold Robot) starts off in pure Spiritualized territory, and There Is An Equilibrium brings out the horns and some Ninja Tune style breaks but without the groove ever really dominating.
The Strode Adventurer builds up from a distant rumble to a perky disco beat lifted up with some cheerful finger-clicks, only to end up sounding a bit like listening to an old disco record that’s skipping a bit (and being played under a bathtub).
A Fantastic Voyage and Stuck In The Belly Of A Shark concentrate on the underwater ambience, presumably returning to shore for The Sad And The Dark, which sounds like a medium conjuring up the lost soul of The Beach Boys‘ classic Surf’s Up.
The album closes with the title track (and a long title it is too), a lingering jazz meditation that leaves us none the wiser as to the illustrious achievements of Captain Moon and feeling a little unsure about what we’ve just heard. It’s certainly atmospheric stuff, but it doesn’t really command attention, and the scratchy vocal delivery also grates somewhat. However it does seem to give a very strong sense of location, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, given the right time, circumstances and environment, all those aspects that seem to jar so badly would fit right into place.
So if it’s 5am, with the threat of dawn peering through the window and the memories of a wild night giving way to an almost tranquil sense of loneliness, then Hooker’s Green No.1 could well be playing your song.