By far the jauntiest album Mojave 3 have ever made, ‘Puzzles Like You’ is a world away from the stark fragility of debut ‘Ask Me Tomorrow’ eleven years ago. Slightly more direct and less exotic than predecessor ‘Spoon And Rafter’ (the influence of new producer Victor Van Vugt is clearly apparent), they sound like they are actually having fun, even exhibiting a touch of playfulness in the lyrics (see the “Daughter/trousers shorter” rhyme on ‘Kill The Lights’). Few would begrudge them happiness, and indeed success, after a career (and a solid body of recorded work) which has seen them ignored for the most part by the media and the public.
There’s a touch of 60s innocence amid the Byrdsian jangly guitars of the title track and the wide-eyed retro dreaminess of ‘You Said It Before’, whilst single ‘Breaking The Ice’ remains one of the gloriously understated anthems of the year. For those (like me) who love M3 for their lovelorn country/folk laments, there are still some delightful slices of melancholy here – particularly on ‘Big Star Baby’ and, best of all, the closing track ‘The Mutineer’. The latter is written and sung by drummer Ian McCutcheon and just goes to show that chief songwriter Neil Halstead should let go of the reins more often; as when he does, the results are surprisingly affecting. Whilst ‘PLY’ doesn’t take M3 down any completely unexpected avenues, it still highlights them as fine ambassadors for their territory. How long 4AD will continue to support a group who continually fail to attract the commercial recognition they deserve remains to be seen, but as an album, this is another unqualified success. Recommended. MS (CMU)
Released 19 Jun