Chris Moore is something of a well-kept secret on the music scene, from his hardcore past part of (Negative Approach) to his four previous solo albums and now on his fifth he enlists a full band (his ‘Sons’) to flesh out his spectral Americana that shares spiritual cousins in Grandaddy, M Ward, Calexico, Neil Young and The Flaming Lips with his bruised brain country melodies.
Ushered in by the waltzing autumnal acoustic vibraphone downbeat Carried Away and downhome vocals that ache and pull on a cello tide this promises to live up to the ‘orchestral yet brainy folk-rock’ banner it trades under. Lyrics that could be drivel have a strangely accessible poetic approach to natural spirituality with speak of “promise of a new age of a lasting twilight” and “marvel at horizons our world hasn’t seen” without sounding trite or ‘new-agey’.
The Randy Newman-esque Linger Here Awhile careers around a bar-room piano blues with its tales of the shrinking natural world and the feeling of a deeper loss shares a musical lineage with the appropriately brief Firefly.
The pace is mainly mid-tempo as instrumentation is unfussy, organic and always tweaking towards some interesting little shapes and noises in the over-arching scheme. Occasionally the vocals stray and wobble in the higher ranges, but it matters not, when the caliber of the tunes and general bonhomie oozing from these tunes casts audio perfection requests aside.
Deep Pools with its delicate circling rhythm of vibes and soft acoustics is like a campfire hymn to the wonder of nature that breathes woodsmoke with close harmonies and a twilight glow that draws you in without trying.
Not to say that Moore is confined to one gear and when he lets rip as on the tribal percussive shaking groove of See What It Brings Out (“you present a flower with a thorny stem”)and Good For It they shake the pulse to the surface. Surprise Me even threatens to burst its acoustic banks with guitar flourishes that call to mind The Who before dipping back to more reflective passages.
The space-country of Clouds On The Ground marries a wandering mariachi trumpet to acoustic flourishes and stuttering vocals to create a hybrid calling to mind Calexico doing some stargazing after a tequila session in the desert. Otherworldly and beautiful in its yearning and oblique imagery (“should I close the wound, could have caught it earlier”)
Swinging Bridge rolls along to – hey!…a swing rhythm and is one of the many diverse musical influences on show here which show flecks of blues, jazz, pop and even afro-cuban themes without sounding like Paul ‘Bastard’ Simon once.
Loose Gang ends the journey with some sombre piano chords, muffled trumpet and dragging cello telling of reaching the stage of “it’s either bitch or brag” in a struggle of power, be it domestic or on a grander scale. In other hands this would be some clumsy ham-fisted chestbeater, but Moore handles it all sensitively with brains over brawn to create a reflective, inspired album.
Ultimately Us Fools is a precious gem of an album. True it will never set the charts alight with hook-laden anthems; instead it will ease itself into the twilight cherished clutch of albums you will return to over the years to glean some pleasure from its elliptical look at the world and emerge feeling calmly invigorated.