High pop happy

So I was sitting there, listening to the latest by Moose, and my body had no idea how to react. Did I like it? Was I disappointed? Did I need coffee? Then I realized I was going through dissonance withdrawal. Moose is a light-hearted creature that knows not the ways of the angst-ridden. It lopes in an easy, fret-free environment among luminous celestial bodies and a few retro throwbacks.

“A Starting Point” paints an atmosphere of laughter, secret talk and gothic moans, morphing into moaning guitars and bell chimes. This plunges into “Can’t Get Enough of You,” with its ’80s Brit-pop vocals, bongo smatterings, twangy espionage guitar and background voices that sound as if the song’s haunted by Yma Sumac. This, like many of the other tracks on High Ball Me, seems to be stuck in an echoey wind tunnel, causing a lovely dreamy effect, but at the cost of drowning interesting guitar and whatnots in an ocean of reverb.

Nonetheless, High Ball Me is refreshingly uncynical and reaches charming pop peaks — especially in “The Only Man in Town,” with its childlike back-and-forth pace underneath Russel Yates’ lackadaisical vocals, in memory of the Church or a clean Jesus and Mary Chain. The songs would totally float away if it weren’t for the spaghetti-western guitar lassoing them back to the real world in a Kid Congo Powers kind of way. But the guitar sound isn’t limited to the West. In “Lily la Tigresse,” we hear a mock Middle Eastern guitar riff enveloped by a holiday-lazy Latin beat and Yates’ voice sounding as if it’s been sifted through a 1940s radio. It gives the song an ancient-exotic European feel that fits in well with the excellent packaging (High Ball Me is covered in scrapbook collage with yellowed postcards, photographs and classic, fleeting imagery reminiscent of a Griffin and Sabine book).

Moose doesn’t sound like its trying to impress anybody with this CD, and it certainly doesn’t have much of a bite, but maybe that’s because the group is too busy enjoying itself doing something it loves and knows how to do.

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