As chat-up lines go, “do you like my tight sweater?” rather knocks old chestnuts like “get your coat love, you’ve pulled” into the proverbial cocked hat. It was with those words that R�is�n Murphy introduced herself to Mark Brydon at a party in Sheffield, and a relationship and band named Moloko followed shortly afterwards.
The relationship and Moloko were to survive for nearly a decade, producing four albums and a reputation for witty, inventive pop music. Sadly, Murphy and Brydon split shortly before the release of their final album Statues, and Murphy’s solo album Ruby Blue last year appeared to signal the end of Moloko. Catalogue then provides a perfect opportunity to see if they deserve their place in the Steel City’s stellar history of producing imaginative electronic pop.
Catalogue collects together 13 tracks from all points of Moloko’s career, and also throws in a previously unreleased song, Bankrupt Emotionally, for good measure. Sadly, it’s not arranged in any kind of chronological order, so we don’t get to see how Murphy and Brydon developed and evolved their sound over their years, but we do get to rediscover some marvellously uplifting pop music.
The band’s two best known tracks, The Time Is Now and Sing It Back, open the album, and it makes for a gloriously uplifting introduction. The former is a gorgeously shimmering anthem, with a Spanish-style guitar, subtle strings and Murphy’s breathy, warm vocals all combining to create a song that still sounds as fresh today as it did six years ago. Even the fact that Sky Sports have adopted it for their football coverage can’t rob it of its majesty.
Sing It Back, of course, was the song that shot Moloko into the big time, and it also sounds as euphoric as ever. It was to give Moloko a reputation as an ‘Ibiza’ style dance band, but there was always a lot more brains and character to be found behind Brydon’s songs than on your typical Ministry Of Sound collection. More typical of Moloko’s oeuvre is Fun For Me, with its slightly deranged lyrics of “I had a dream the boogeyman went down on Mr Spock” and “Fi Fie Fo Fum” refrain, or Indigo’s surreal yet ecstatic chorus of “Rameses! Colossus!”.
For a band so often unfairly accused of writing essentially nonsense songs such as the latter two, what’s often overlooked is the amount of emotion that Moloko managed to squeeze into their songs. It’s a tough thing to manage in the essentially aloof world of electronica, but a lot of credit for it has to go to R�is�n Murphy’s wonderful voice.
For Murphy is one of our most underrated singers – whether it be sensual and come-hither on The Time Is Now, purring on Pure Pleasure Seeker or sorrowful and mournful on Statues, she injects a huge amount of personality into each of Brydon’s songs. Nowhere is this more apparent on the Statues-era songs, recorded against the backdrop of the duo’s disintegrating relationship – the yearning Forever More and Familiar Feeling, despite the celebratory tone of the music, both have a deep sense of sadness and melancholy that Murphy manages to bring out quite beautifully.
Best of all is the fact that, this being a ‘best of’ album, it avoids the sometimes self-indulgent noodling that could be found on all four Moloko albums and just concentrates on the solid gold pop nuggets that the duo were so good at creating. With a bonus live DVD, a disc of remixes, and the option to download a whole host of exclusive versions from various online stores, this really is the perfect purchase for those who wish to move their hearts and minds as well as their feet. Just goes to show how far a well chosen chat-up line can get you…