The man himself describes his sound as “Bo Diddley remixed by Swizz Beatz” – and while both of these comparisons might be somewhat over generous, there’s an ambitious, fuddled charm to what he does. He’s been trumpeted as a ’50s revivalist, but that does him a disservice – there’s much more to him, with polished hip-hop, echoes of dubstep and lo-fi dance beats blasting their way through.
The Wu-Tang Clan sampling Yeah Yeah was snapped up by Apple to soundtrack an advert last year. It was his fifth single – the first to chart – and the blaring bursts of power-pop are instantly familiar, even if his name isn’t yet. Taking notes from Kanye West and his mentor Jack White, it’s loud, confident, anthemic and packs a punch.
White’s influence is notable throughout, and not just through his oddball take on vintage sounds – White released the gloriously chaotic, bluesy Railroad Track on his own label before taking him on tour, and Here’s Willy Moon includes a version of Shakin’, the 1960 Little Willie John track covered on White’s Blunderbuss album. The hyper rock ‘n’ roll is smattered across the album, with the likes of his first single, 2011’s I Wanna Be Your Man, and lyrics sat firmly in the ’50s (“Got a strange affliction down in my soul,” he pouts, later musing “Hear what I say, gonna love you night and day…”)
Opening track Get Up is a bold introduction; brassy vocals moulded into a noir-ish hip hop, with strings and breathy backing vocals – it sets the scene for a lavishly produced, confident debut. Elsewhere, Working For The Company is a high kicking cabaret affair, What I Want is a slice of crawling, creeping lo-fi, while My Girl is like a boyband gone mad. It ends with the brilliantly dark, acoustic Murder Ballad, which could be the sign-off for a pantomime villain.
Moon doesn’t dip in and out – the sounds are fused together, and what could be a disjointed record is at times exhilarating; with only one song nudging past the three minute mark, it hurtles along at breakneck speed, barely leaving you time to think about what could come next. And it’s catchy; there are choruses that stay with you for days, samples that you can’t shift and big, clunking sounds that you’ll find yourself tapping out weeks later. This could be a symptom of his ’50s affliction, but at times it feels a little self-conscious, which you leaves you wondering what he could achieve if he pushed his need for a catchy tune to one side. But if you’re content to let him in, Here’s Willy Moon is an exciting debut from someone who’s trying to break the pop mould, several genres at a time.