A bit like a charter mark, the fact that an album is stamped with the Sub Pop logo is usually a sign that you’re going to get a quality record. Chickens know eggs, bakers know bread and Sub Pop know people like The Vaselines and Dum Dum Girls. These dudes know what they’re doing.
The effect, therefore, of picking up such a distinctly un-Sub Pop record as In The Cool Of The Day is a bit of a sucker punch. Listening to Daniel Martin Moore’s latest release is a little like being given an ill-fitting jumper by a relative who usually nails your gift. You’re left confused, a little angry and wondering what has happened to their previously faultless judgement.
It’s not that In The Cool Of The Day is a bad album, just that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Opener All Ye Tenderhearted, just Moore’s breathy vocals and the gentle strums of a banjo, sets the tone for pretty boy folk a la Mumford And Sons, but this is followed by the cloying Dark Road, an anaemic country pastiche that feels like Ryan Adams is lurking. Later on in Up Above My Head, Moore becomes Michael Bubl� with a fiddle, his vocals sounding punchably smug and so jazz lite that you can practically hear the after eights being handed round. Softly And Tenderly starts off with a gentle piano tickle that sounds like Billy Joel‘s Always A Woman, but then becomes a vanilla flavoured gospel sludge. The overall feel of the album is of an experiment too far, centred around someone who doesn’t quite have the va-va voom to pull it off.
he whole project is overproduced and overly slick, stripping the nuance out of the hymnal nature of the music, music that should be allowed to breathe so that it can shine. While the press release talks of the fact the songs are a personal journey for Moore, there is no sense of that here at all. The singer-songwriter seems distant from the material, as if he is singing from another room (and not in an ethereal way). While hymns and spirituals should be earthy and uplifting, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, here they are sentimental and cloying. The sense of the personal has removed any sense of the universal, which is exactly what these songs need in order to thrive. It feels like Moore doesn’t believe, and therefore neither can we.
Sub Pop have obviously seen something here, and who are we to argue with a label that has produced such greats as Nirvana? It just feels like an album that’s not so much a labour of love but a lumber towards the mainstream. If you want gospel reimaginings and alt-country then listen to Seasick Steve who does this kind of thing with much more honesty and humour. And in future, maybe have a think next time you see that Sub Pop label. Like Mother always said, never judge a book by its cover.