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Albums

Best albums of 2000: #3 Mojave 3 “Excuses for travellers”

It was Saturday afternoon, September 30, 2000, and I was at work, nearing the end of my shift. I called Tim because I had a hankering to go out and was curious to see what my friends were doing. “I know what you’re going to do tonight,” Tim proclaimed, much like Hunter S. Thompson’s lawyer might have done in ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’. “You’re coming with me to see Mojave 3 at the Horseshoe tonight!” It was fortuitous for him and for me that he had an extra ticket for the show and was looking for someone to claim it. I had never really listened to Mojave 3 before but I was game.

I don’t really remember many details of the show, given the heroic amounts of cheap draft consumed that night, but I’ve got two that I can relay. The first is a short conversation that transpired on the way out of the Legendary Horseshoe after the show that will live on in infamy. Tim was saying something about how Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell had gone all Cowboy Junkies with Mojave 3. And I drunkenly proclaimed, “Tim, you have no concept of genre.” He just looked at me, incredulous, and said, “I don’t even know how to respond to that.” The second is that I must’ve really enjoyed the show because I went out the very next day to purchase Mojave 3’s latest disc, 2000’s “Excuses for travellers”.

If that story sounds vaguely familiar, you must’ve read the post I wrote about the track “Return to sender” when it appeared at #6 on my Best tunes of 2000 list. I reproduced it practically verbatim above because I love the story and it bears repeating, especially given that it recounts my introduction to the group and their third album, the subject of our post today.

Mojave 3 came to be when British shoegaze icons Slowdive were dropped by their label, the equally iconic Creation Records, in 1995 and that band’s principal songwriters, Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, along with the drummer at the time, Ian McCutcheon, decided to record music towards a different direction entirely. The trio became a quintet shortly afterwards with the addition of Alan Forrester and Simon Rowe (the latter formerly of Chapterhouse), but the ‘3’ in the name stuck. You might be surprised, knowing how I feel about dream pop and shoegaze, that it took me so long to get into this band but that’s the truth of it.

Mojave 3’s third album, “Excuses for travellers”, is like a happy medium between the group’s first two. It’s not as gauzy and mellow as “Ask me tomorrow” and not as peppy and twee as “Out of tune”. It just is. It is a mood and a feeling. It’s what you put on when you want to feel that “Excuses for travellers” feeling. Those who know, know exactly what I’m talking about. This is an album that doesn’t peak and that doesn’t have any obvious singles. It just has ten amazing tunes, of which of I have picked three of my favourites for you to sample. Hope you’re in the mood.


“Bringin’ me home”: My first pick is the only one on which Neil Halstead doesn’t take the lead vocal duties. Penned and sung by Rachel Goswell, it follows the lead of the other songs with a tempered, upbeat feel. Instead of sunshine, though, Rachel channels a rainy day. “Just a rainy day here in my usual place, where no one hears me.” Just sitting alone with the sound of the raindrops and the echoes of memories, imagining what might’ve been. A surprising, yet subtle synth underpins the tune, adding a layer to the guitar strum and sparse drum beat. And then, as if we weren’t clear on the mood, a harmonica makes an appearance for good measure.

“In love with a view”: “I had a plan that was built on thinking too long. Canadian winters, at home with your sisters, the romance was hard to ignore. You were beautiful. I was happy to fall.” Perhaps this is predictable but I have soft spot for any tune that references home, especially when that tune comes from an artist not from Canada. The opening number perfectly sets the mood. Strumming acoustic, twinkling piano, wailing pedal steel, and a bass line that just feels like a soaked handkerchief. The memory is cold. A cabin in the middle of nowhere, a fixture in the corner of all those Polaroids. Halstead and Goswell sing together at the refrain, both plaintive, both hopeful that the pain won’t be in vain. And when the song explodes into an all out jam at the three and a half minute mark, you can’t help but feel that the band are are working through a whole range of emotions. It’s just so beautiful and passionate.

“Return to sender”: Track four is pure joy. “Return to sender” is a tune that always brings a smile to my face. It makes me want to put my arm around my wife’s shoulder so that we can sway together with our eyes closed and sing along to those Neil Halstead witticisms. “I went looking for a priest, I said, ‘Say something, please I don’t want to live my life all alone.’ He said, “God will take care of those that help themselves. But you look pretty screwed, send a letter.’” My sixth favourite tune from the year 2000 is a boppy number. It’s a feeling that dances along to Halstead’s gentle acoustic strumming and his soft and plaintive vocals. The jaunty drumming, the banjo twang, twinkling keys, and harmonica flourishes only to serve to add to the wistful joy. “If you find us, return to sender.”


I’m obviously still not on a regular schedule around here so I won’t promise when we’ll get to album #2… but, it’s coming. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. Richard Ashcroft “Alone with everybody”
9. The New Pornographers “Mass romantic”
8. The Cure  “Bloodflowers”
7. The Weakerthans “Left and leaving”
6. The Clientele “Suburban light”
5. Belle and Sebastian “Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant”
4. Coldplay “Parachutes”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #22 Slowdive “Alison”

<< #23    |    #21 >>

My friend Tim was always a bigger fan of Slowdive than I was, and I suspect that his appreciation of the group was influenced greatly by his crush on one of the principal vocalists of the group, Rachel Goswell. He tried to get me into them and I did my best to give them a shot. I tape-recorded a copy of the “Souvlaki” CD he loaned me. Unfortunately, I would never get very far with it, rarely more than a few songs past the opening track (but more on that in a bit).

Much like the rest of the music world, critics and writers who never appreciated Slowdive until they were gone, I didn’t get into the Reading-based five-piece until much later. I’ve already documented* on these pages that it was long after they had lost a couple members, changed musical directions, and rebranded that I caught up with them again, just after they had released their third album as Mojave 3. When I listen to “Souvlaki” now, though, I can’t help but wonder: “What were we all thinking?”

The album is lush and ambient, the sadness and hurt palpable in every wash and echo. More deliberate and difficult than its predecessor, it is a sophomore album multiplied by a hundred, informed equally by the knowledge that anything they produced would be panned and by the internal strife in the band created by the romantic split of Neil Halstead and the aforementioned Goswell. If it weren’t for the rise of Grunge and Britpop, it may have been just as hailed at the time as it is now. Hands down, it was one of the greatest shoegaze albums ever recorded.

“Alison” is the one track that I can honestly say that I’ve always loved from the album. As an opener, it was a hard one to move past and I rarely did. The guitars jangle and waver, a shimmering of light highlighting millions of tiny specks of dust, lifted and disrupted ever so gently by a passing breeze, the same that caused flutters in the gossamer curtains of sound. Drums are far off in the distance and deep down in the mix, like a harrowing memory. The reverb is like a third person in the room, pushing together the lilting voices of Halstead and Goswell, even as it as ripping them apart. “Alison” could be anyone who’s ever broken your heart, a smoker’s cough and an ashtray overflowing with butts, a hangover and a dozen empty merlot bottles.

“Alison, I’m lost
Alison, I’ll drink your wine
And wear your clothes when we’re both high
Alison, I said we’re sinking
But she laughs and tells me it’s just fine
I guess she’s out there somewhere”

Sigh.

*And likely will do so again…

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Playlists

Playlist: In the summertime

Earlier this year, I had this brilliant idea to make a series of seasonal-themed playlists and post each on these pages on the first day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The idea was inspired by my friend Andrew Rodriguez, who has posited in the past that there are certain songs and albums that just scream out a particular season to him. I think there’s something to his idea and wanted to shared the love and expand upon it.

My playlist for Spring, the aptly titled “The first day of spring”, went off without a hitch. It was predictably full of the hope and pent-up excitement that the season brings and I posted it right on time. Of course, and incidentally, my summer playlist wasn’t as punctual. I had it made in time for the turning of the season on the calendar date but perhaps something in me felt that the time wasn’t quite right. Indeed, if you listen to these twenty-five tracks, it just screams out from the depths and the heights of mid-summer, wavering between the hazy and languid, and the all out beach and patio party.

Yes, I know August is more than half over and the kids are heading back to school soon but that doesn’t mean we have to let the summer end. As long as the sun beats down on us and the patios remain open, we can stretch this thing out and enjoy it to the fullest. So I suggest we put this playlist on repeat, turn it up, and get ready to “Lay back in the sun” and hit as many “Happy hour”s as we can.

Other highlights on this mix include:

    • “In the summertime”, the title track and opening number sets the tone with love
    • Camera Obscura’s “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken” isn’t necessarily linked to the season lyrically but it definitely has the feel that we wished all summers had
    • “Island in the sun” is Weezer as The Beach Boys and resulted in one of their biggest ever hits
    • I remember first hearing Smash Mouth’s retro fling, “Walkin’ on the sun” in the summer of 1997, falling for it, and then, falling all over myself trying to find their album in the stores
    • Black Box Recorder’s lovely cover of the wistful “Seasons in the sun”, a song originally made famous by Canadian Terry Jacks

For those who don’t use Spotify or if the embedded playlist below doesn’t work for you, here is the entire playlist (complete with YouTube links) as I’ve created it:

1. The Rural Alberta Advantage “In the summertime”
2. The Housemartins “Happy hour”
3. Primal Scream “Higher than the sun”
4. Young Galaxy “New summer”
5. Doves “Catch the sun”
6. Camera Obscura “Lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken”
7. Galaxy 500 “Fourth of July”
8. The Airborne Toxic Event “The girls in their summer dresses”
9. Weezer “Island in the sun”
10. Pink Mountaintops “The second summer of love”
11. Violent Femmes “Blister in the sun”
12. The Polyphonic Spree “Light & day / Reach for the sun”
13. The Pogues “Summer in Siam”
14. Spiritualized “Lay back in the sun”
15. The Sundays “Summertime”
16. Rachel Goswell “Warm summer sun”
17. Munroe “Summer”
18. Belle and Sebastian “Another sunny day”
19. Shannon Lay “August”
20. Vampire Weekend “Cape Cod kwassa Bkwassa”
21. Smash Mouth “Walkin’ on the sun”
22. Dodgy “Staying out for the summer”
23. Black Box Recorder “Seasons in the sun”
24. The Jezabels “Endless summer”
25. The Decemberists “Anti-summersong”

And as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are safe and continue to be well. Until next time, enjoy the tunes.

For those of you who are on Spotify, feel free to look me up. My user name is “jprobichaud911”.