There are some words you never expect to have to type out next to each other. ‘Electro mariachi music’ are three such words, but then along came Tokyo Glow, the latest album from Moongoose.
Moongoose are David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer, ex-bassist from Space and all round local legend, along with guitars from Paul Cavanagh and video treatments from Mark Jordan. (Incidentally, can I say how much I love seeing a video person listed as a band member. It shows a post punk sensibility and takes me back to the heady days of early gigs from the like of Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League.)
Yorkie’s place in legend first came thanks to his involvement in the punk and post punk scenes in Liverpool. Tales of the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes rehearsing in his mum’s basement are part of the unique folklore that accompanies the city coming back to life and stepping out of the Merseybeat shadow.
Moongoose have had an enigmatic path so far. EPs were slowly leaked out, there was a gig in a cinema, the occasional burst of activity on social media, and two under the radar albums. But nothing that prepared us for Tokyo Glow.
Tokyo Glow took me completely by surprise. The Moongoose tracks I had heard before this have been very good indeed, but when taken together in one hit like this, the effect is to be unexpectedly plunged into another world.
All 10 tracks on Tokyo Glow are instrumentals. But really they are much more than this; they are soundtracks. Listening to this album is like watching a film in your own imagination; by the end you feel like you have watched a Blade Runner style spaghetti western from beginning to end.
The songs that make up Tokyo Glow are expansive in both scale and ambition. Opener Bullet introduces us to the aforementioned electro mariachi, which is catchy as hell and an irresistible call to move. Imagine this playing over an epic Tarantino film trailer.
But one of the albums strengths is that no two tracks sound the same, yet they all sound like Moongoose.
Track 2, Tokyo Aflame, is another upbeat track, rich in atmosphere and texture. A soundtrack to a Bond film, should they ever get around to making a good one again.
A Floating World calms things down and would not sound out of place playing at the Café Del Mar, soundtracking an Ibizan sunset.
This is carried over into Sleep to Disappear and actually, most of the album. By this point, it is easy to forget that we are listening to just one band and not a mix CD that has been expertly put together to take the listeners on a journey. The range of feelings, moods and sounds is astonishing.
To listen to Tokyo Glow on headphones is to be carried away on a near psychedelic journey, blissed out and happy.
By the time the title track closes the album, we have come a long way together, Moongoose and I. It has been a journey of spiritual peaks, my own visuals and Moongoose’s extraordinary vision.
It is a journey I will be repeating many time over the coming months and years. This is an album that will stay with me, we will become firm and lifelong friends.
Undoubtedly one of last year’s finest albums, Tokyo Glow is just superb.
The question is, how could Moongoose follow this up?
During the lockdown, a lot of bands have found difficulty in doing what they need to do, whereas Yorkie has responded to this new world by doing what he does best – being creative.
The Black EP is full of John Barry flourishes and, for those of us of a certain age, slightly hints at theme tunes to The Persuaders and the like. The tracks are variations on a theme and are best listened to as a single piece of music that kaleidoscopes its way into your brain.
Yellow is again rich with imagery, with the mind filling in visuals to go along with the cinematic feel of the music.
Sun 13 spoke to Moongoose mainstay David ‘Yorkie’ Palmer to see how things are in Moongoose world.
Hi Yorkie. How are you?
“I’m very well thank you. Just working on a couple of anniversary releases:
A Moongoose box set and a re-release of my solo album ‘Pitch A Ladder To The Moon’ and all of its related b’sides and Ep’s.”
How have you been getting on with the lockdown?
“It’s been a very unusual few months.
When lockdown was first put in place, my first priority was to give my three boys their own rooms, so I relocated my House Of Light studio downstairs in the house.
This proved to be a godsend as everyone has been getting along with each other, without any arguments.
The new studio location is much better as well. Much more room and natural light.“
How would you describe Moongoose?
“Soundtrack music for the imagination.”
How do you go about writing your songs?
“I don’t stick to one formula, I like to approach each project differently so as to (hopefully) keep each release fresh.
The albums Organic Technology, Missives From The Memory Machine and Tokyo Glow make up a sort of sci-fi trilogy about how technology has infiltrated into our daily lives. There are good points and bad.
I love comparing the reality of today with the old utopian/dystopian sci-fi movies I grew up with, such as ‘Rollerball’, ‘Soylent Green’, ‘Planet Of The Apes’, ‘Logans Run’, etc.
One thing I find really inspirational is titles, I love making up titles as a starting point/jumping off point for the listener.
I used to be a singer, and of course a lyricist, but because Moongoose is an instrumental band titles are my only outlet in that area…so I make the most of them.”
Do you bring your post punk past with you into Moongoose?
“My PUNK past has informed everything I have ever done. If you lived through Punk, I don’t think it ever leaves you.”
Your songs sound like soundtracks, is this something you have in mind when you all get together?
“When I first started Moongoose that was the main intention: to do instrumental music, music that was designed or intended to be instrumental, as opposed to those tracks labelled instrumental because the singer couldn’t get his shit together.
All the band members have a love of soundtrack and instrumental music. As a kid I always bought soundtrack albums, sometimes for films I was too young to see, or were no longer being shown in cinemas (for example the early James Bond films with their magnificent John Barry scores).
My brother thought I was a right weirdo. I remember him walking in the room while I was listening to Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score for Logan’sRun with the lights out. The look of scorn on his face was priceless.”
How has the lockdown affected the way you work?
“Well, after the release of ‘Tokyo Glow’ I wasn’t intending to do anything new with Moongoose till next year. However, while relocating my studio downstairs and sorting the boys rooms, I was listening to a lot of old Film Noir and Giallo soundtracks as well as watching films from both genres.
As the studio move was completed, I wanted to try out the new room and found myself wanting to do something to reflect my love of both these sometime neglected or forgotten genres.
I had touched upon Noir with my previous band The Balcony and with Space introduced some elements of Giallo. The only problem during lockdown was that I couldn’t get the usual band members around to contribute their usual essential talents.
I could send Mark Jordan tracks for him to do videos for, but the others were unavailable, so I asked my son Jack if he would be interested in helping out.
He brought a fresh perspective and outlook to the Yellow and Black Ep’s and contributed guitar, bass and keyboards across the tracks.
The fact that he wasn’t aware of either of the genres (well, he loves Dario Argento’s Suspiria) meant that what he contributed was based purely on the titles for the tracks and what he felt the atmosphere dictated.
Bob Osborne has been a great supporter over the years, so German Shepherd Records were the obvious choice to release the last two Ep’s.
Just wanted them released as soon as possible and he made it possible. We were still recording and mixing while he was arranging the releases.”
How is it making music with your family?
“It’s always a joy. I recorded a song about 13 years ago called Alone. It uses the Edgar Allan Poe poem of the same name as it text. It was suggested to me by an old friend many years ago, but I hadn’t gotten round to it.
I recorded it with my good friend and Windmill compadre Mick Dolan and we got my 5 year old son Matthew to add vocals.
It is now included in the forthcoming film about Derek Jarman by Mark Jordan.
For both Windmill albums (‘Wanderlust’ and ‘A Different Door’) both Jack and my youngest son Ben sang backing vocals.
They both played keyboards on the b’side to the Moongoose single ‘Headache’: ‘20th Century Spirals’.“
What have you been listening to lately?
“I’ve been listening loads to This Heat, Faust, African Head Charge, Andrzej Korzynski, The Ghost Box label, Swans, Midsommar (soundtrack), A Year In The Country, The Room In The Wood.
As well as this, I’m compiling the Yorkie album and the Moongoose box set.”
In amongst all the stress and disruption that has come about as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown, it is easy to feel that the world has ground to a halt, that all we are able to do is to try to keep ourselves afloat, treading water but not necessarily getting anywhere.
It is reassuring and impressive to hear that art and artists are still doing what they do, creating, making music and making plans.
Both Yorkie’s solo album and the Moongoose box set give us something to look forward to, a light shining in the fog.
And that is art at its best.