Any self respecting ’90s disco (if there is such a thing!) would have to have one or two Mousse T songs – most likely Horny or the bellowing Tom Jones fronted number Sex Bomb. Since then Mousse T, or Mustafa to give him his full name, seems to have forsaken his house music upbringing and gone for straight, MTV-generation pop.
He’s a man with an eye for a good tune, there’s no doubt about that. The single Is It ‘Cos I’m Cool?, featuring Horny vocalist Emma Lanford, is a chart bothering hook – certainly one for the adverts. Lanford appears twice more on Wow and Right About Now, and the common link between the three songs seems to be that they’re trying too hard to be cool lyrically, the latter proclaiming that “I want your name on my t-shirt”.
Far more intriguing are the collaborations between Mousse and two established pop veterans. Hugh Cornwell, ex-Strangler, opens up with Underground, some strange but refreshingly original string parts backing Mousse’s commercially aware lyrics – “You know it’s true/We do need you/To sell a million or two”. It’s a well observed deconstruction of record company politics. The second ‘veteran’ is Roachford, always an underrated vocalist, and his instantly recognisable soulful tones complain the “sex has gone”, over a smooth, dark groove.
Each track has its own guest, which is fine for the sake of variety if not continuity. Inaya Day’s low register is a good vehicle for By Myself, the lyrics heartfelt as she sings “I thank you for my lack of self esteem”. Most effectively she moves up a gear towards the close to round off what ought to be a single release.
Music Makes Me Fly is also catchy but seems to have lifted its entire verse from Goldfrapp‘s Strict Machine. This is an indication of the style towards which Mousse is headed – gone are the four to the floor swinging house beats that made Sex Bomb so danceable, and in their place are electronic pop sounds – straight from the ’80s, but still clearly geared for radio. After a promising first half the album drops away somewhat, finishing with a disappointing last couple of tracks where some of the energy seems to have been lost.
Overall though the impression is that Mousse T is continuing to develop as an artist and as an increasingly decent songwriter, aided by long time cohort Errol Rennalls. Certainly the imaginative collaborations he secures once again are well worth hearing. His main danger seems to be lack of identity – apart from the knack for a good tune there’s nothing to single him out from the crowd, but maybe that’s how he prefers to operate.