Norway - Full Moon 156 - 06/07/09
The Loch Ness Mouse
I've followed Loch Ness Mouse (LNM) almost since the start in the first half of the 1990s. It's already more than ten years since the first time we interviewed them here at Luna Kafé. Now it's about time to go our separate ways. The musical direction of the band has developed too far away from what I'm interested in. At first, New Graffiti was a quite a shock. The Mouse had turned into a full blown American soul band... Well, that was the superficial view. The band describes the music of the album as: "r'n'b and jazz with hip-hop hints & pop elegance blended into a new kind of music, inspired amongst other things by how for instance Guru's Jazzmatazz or The Roots have merged musical styles into something new".
Simplified, LNM's debut album Flair for Darjeeling was the band's Tables album, meaning fairly unpretentious quirky pop inspired by British acts like Television Personalities and a host of more or less psychedelic and melodious bands from the 1960s and indie bands of the 1980s and 1990s. With the second, Key West, they were about to move across the waters and paid tribute to the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. 11-22 saw them firmly planted on the American mainland; it was LNM's Steely Dan album. And with New Graffiti they have moved on to contemporary American music.
Well, this was the short and rough and too simplified history. Listening to the band's entire catalogue, the development is not as abrupt and fundamental. There are songs on each longplayer that points both back to the previous album and forward to the next. For instance, tracks like "One Last Thing" and "Hang On To Your Pearls" from New Graffiti could easily have fitted onto 11-22. And, if I'd prepared for New Graffiti and listened more carefully to some of the songs of 11-22 in advance, for instance the title track and "Dare To Come", the shock of the new album would've been substantially less. That said, it's far from the happy spontaneous power pop with guitars played behind the neck to the very well produced and slick modern music dominated by electric pianos and saxophones of today.
Ole Johannes Åleskjær (OJ) is the only member left from the original line-up of the band. In fact he is the only surviving member from 11-22, too! His brother Jørn has retired from playing but is still very much involved in the songwriting along with OJ. Apart from the new musical direction
there are two characteristic elements I particularly miss compared to all the earlier LNM albums. There are hardly any prominent guitars left by now. Only "Ask Him" has a great dynamic guitar part midway through. [This interesting song is somehow drowned in American saxophones and a female soul choir I really can't stand, alas!] Also, OJ doesn't seem to be the main vocalist anymore. He has handed over the microphone to Christina Høgetveit Staxrud and guest vocalists on several tracks.
LNM has moved on to something modern, ultra American, chic and cool studio perfection whereas my musical tastes haven't changed. I still prefer spontaneity, charm, risks and some rougher edges here & there to the above. In this respect it is also logic that LNM has parted with Perfect Pop, the indie label that has been the outlet for the band's music since the debut in 1993 until 2005's 11-22. So, there we are. I wish the Mouse the best of luck onwards! And if the musical tastes of the band continue to develop as much from album to album as they have done so far, who knows, it might be interesting to find out what they'll be into next time, after all... This is the band's new graffiti. The idiom is described in the title track: "Always work with something new"! [While I'm one of the grumpy old men they sing about in the same song: "And when you premiere something new, Then everyone has got opinions for you"...]
Copyright © 2009 JP