Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
Lou Reed’s influence hangs heavy over much of today’s alternative music scene. This is especially true of Cate Le Bon’s Mug Museum, a charmingly produced melding of baroque pop melodies and guitar jangle, with occasional bursts of psychedelic weirdness that Reed pretty much invented for the album The Velvet Underground and Nico. The comparisons with that banana-emblazoned masterpiece don’t stop there: despite being a Welsh native through and through, Le Bon’s voice bears a striking resemblance to that of Sweden’s Nico, both possessing a crystal-clear tone imbued with an almost haughty aloofness and clipped cadence.
Whereas Nico’s work (especially her solo material) could well be termed difficult to get into, Le Bon sticks fairly closely to a winning formula of pretty pop melodies that are immediately involving despite her sometimes icy vocal delivery. This is aided by a light and sunny production (perhaps influenced by her recent relocation to California), courtesy of Noah Georgeson, which is certainly a sonic leap away from her self-released first EP and singles of 2008.
The single Are You with Me Now? is a definite highlight, the gently duelling guitars shading Le Bon’s reflections on self-doubt in a lovely pastoral hue. Elsewhere Wild is the record’s most strident piece, a garage rock blast that transcends brilliantly from a hummed, wordless bridge into a strange, jagged chorus. The Nico comparisons are brought into full focus with Mirror Me, which matches I’ll Be Your Mirror’s lullaby sweetness while some off-kilter strings and flutes weave their way in the background.
Mug Museum is certainly not the year’s most original album – it’s far from the first to tap into the odder side of the 60s, and groups like Broadcast and Stereolab have already managed this kind of throwback sound with a bit more invention. Nonetheless, it is thoroughly enjoyable, its prettiness offset with just the right amount of creeping psychedelia.
Mug Museum was released on 11th November 2013, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for Are you With Me Now? here: