Alex Botten left Peel favourites Magnetic North Pole a couple of
years ago, and, disillusioned with their sound and playing in general,
he decided to give up music for good. Fortunately this didn't last.
While visiting Montreal to see long-time e-mail buddy (and now girlfriend)
Dominique, they decided to form Thee Moths - a band who wouldn't
let the small matter of the Atlantic Ocean get in the way of recording
their debut LP.
Are you thinking this is sounding a bit Looper all over again?
Well you'd be wrong, firstly because Alex and Dominique don't sing
every song ad nauseam about writing a thousand letters a day and
then finally sharing their home with a stray cat called Elvis, and
secondly because Thee Moths are actually pretty damn good. "The
Need", with Alex's parts recorded in Dundee and Dominique's in Montreal,
is a lo-fi exploration of eclecticism - almost every track trying
to introduce another influence or idea. I've frequently heard Eric's
Trip and Sonic Youth mentioned in relation to Thee Moths, but I
wasn't expecting it to make me think of so many different bands
and so many different musical styles.
"The Need" does reference a lot of American bands, but not the
American bands I expected. Tracks like the Dominique-sung "The Telephone
Song" are fantastic blasts through three minutes of fuzz - imagine
The Apples in Stereo have stood on all the pedals at the same time
- careering through guitar noise and melodic vocals that somehow
come together into great pop songs. Peppering the record are also
gentler, folk-tinged tracks like "Trees and Rain" and "Now String"
- some instrumental and some with vocals. These no doubt stem from
their self-proclaimed love of Simon and Garfunkel, but also recall
modern folk-touched indie from both sides of the Atlantic, including
(surprisingly) Manchester's Alfie and the magnificent Bright Eyes,
albeit without anything like Connor Oberst's demented singing.
For the most part Dominique's vocals work better than Alex's, but
on the tracks where he allows his delivery to become fragile, desperate
and, if you'll excuse the pun, needy, the results are stunning.
"(A Thing)" and "Chains" are easily among the best tracks here,
both containing all the fractured beauty of Galaxie 500, but with
far more sophistication and variation. If he could capture this
same feeling on the other songs he sings, Alex would be on to something
I was a little nervous of this album before listening to it because
it came with a lot of baggage of how lo-fi it is - I was half expecting
45 minutes of feedback with inaudible mumbling behind it. I'm glad
that this wasn't the case at all. Certainly, the conditions under
which it was recorded have left it a little rough around the edges
in places, but on many of the songs this has actually added to their
charm. Although most of the arrangements are simple, "The Need"
never gets boring - you never find yourself thinking "this would
be great with a lead guitar part" or "some piano in the chorus would
really twist things up a bit". But then I guess that's the real
trick - letting the songs speak for themselves and not overcrowding
You need to get a copy of "The Need". [Jon Armstrong]