There’s something of the hoarder to R Stevie Moore, a man who piles stuff in unsteady towers, stuff that dominates his house, to the extent he’s in real danger of immolating himself every time he switches on his hob. And by house, we mean mind. And by stuff we mean ideas. You can hear a lot of those in Lo Fi High Fives. Nothing sticks around for long. Some is good; some is bad. None of it is ever boring.
So who is R Stevie Moore? Well, he’s a man. With a beard. An astonishing beard. The kind of beard that makes his face seem like an afterthought. And he’s someone who puts the pro in prolific, producing something like 400 albums in a 40-year career. To put that in perspective, if Mumford And Sons are planning a similar level of output, then, based on their current work rate, we’re going to have to put up with them for the next 1000 years. Sigh a lot more.
Moore is also a ‘lo-fi legend’ who is on the verge of becoming a lot more famous. Recent high profile patronage from Ariel Pink and Moore’s O Genesis label boss Tim Burgess, and a single with The Vaccines, and suddenly people are interested. For many, Lo Fi High Fives will be an introduction; an attempt to provide a taste of some of the guises that Moore has taken over the last four decades.
It begins with the recent (and lovely) Pop Music – think Beck covering Waterloo Sunset. Then we drop back three decades to 1981 for Show Biz Is Dead – think a new-wave, post-punk strut like Talking Heads. Then we zig forward to Why Should I Love you from 1986 – think jittery dynamics and surfy guitars that could easily be a lost track off Surfer Rosa. Then, think you should have a rest.
Three songs. Thirty years. Three totally different sides. Do they make sense together? Sort of. There are some moments of commonality throughout proceedings, and themes which recur – a Beach Boys fixation is one, a Beatles-esque way with a harmony is another – but more often than not the tracks of Lo Fi Hard Fives are baffling non-sequiturs.
Not that you’d imagine Moore gives a shit. Which isn’t meant to suggest that he doesn’t care. In fact, if you were looking for someone to prove that lo-fi, DIY doesn’t necessarily mean careless, you can find are plenty of examples here (Big Mistake; Here Comes The Summer Again; I Go Into Your Mind). It’s more that he has been dancing to the beat of his own drum for so long that you guess he’s happy doing his own thing. Something which makes the ‘outsider artist’ label he’s been branded with seem appropriate. But when listening to Lo Fi High Fives, the tag jars. Yes, R Stevie Moore has followed his own path, free from commercial boundaries, but he’s not done so in a vacuum. He hasn’t been unaffected by the mainstream.
But, that’s ultimately kind of moot. Regardless of whether this is the start of the outsider being brought inside or not, Lo Fi High Fives is a weird, engrossing, often totally brilliant representation of a singular musician.