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Mojave 3 – Puzzles Like You

January 10, 2007

Puzzles Like You

Yeah yeah, always two steps behind. I’ve heard it before. Whenever I review something that is moderately new, it is always just old enough so that people have gotten over it already. Whatever. I guess it just takes me a while to get acquainted to new stuff, or maybe it just takes me a while to get ahold of new stuff. Either way, if you didn’t know, Mojave 3, pronounced Moh-hah-vee, is Neil Halsteads band, and has been for the past ten years. And for those of you who don’t know who Neil Halstead is, he was the lead songwriter of Slowdive. Mojave 3 has three original members from Slowdive, I believe, so it is essentially the same songwriters doing things in a completely new context. Puzzles Like You is their latest work and it came out earlier in 06. I like it, I’ll admit it, but I’m still struggling to come at grips with it. Being a huge Slowdive fan, I am used to Halsteads songwriting in the shoegaze genre, and to hear this kind of thing still disturbs me, as this is a country/pop album. While even after twenty years Neil Halsteads songwriting ability hasn’t gone down the tubes, I still have some issues with this album, most unfamiliarity, but in the end if you like either country or pop, you will like this a whole lot. I enjoy the pop aspect of it, so I DO like it, but once again, I still have some gripes.

Maybe part of the problem is me, and how I personally react to the music. I can’t help but think Neil Halstead is trying to pretend he is American or something, and I make fun of him for it sometimes. There is nothing wrong with changing your style, especially when you are fricking Neil Halstead and your ability can work in multiple genres. But I just feel robbed somehow. He’s trying to write American styled music and it’s feeling kind of awkward to me. His accent doesn’t always completely fit the music, and it just makes me cringe when he sings “she likes a man with his trousers shorter” in Kill The Lights and then scurries off into an organ diddy. I’m still getting used to this stuff. That’s another part of my problem…I’m so used to Slowdive. They have been one of my personal favorite bands for a long time, and I’m really used to a completely different context of music, so when I hear this I feel like I have been lied to or am being lied to because it is so different. I think part of that is I wasn’t around to hear all of the early Mojave 3 stuff and I’d probably be able to hear the transition. I’m not so sure I have an interest in the transition anyway, though. It’s folk rock, and that’s fine, but no matter how long Neil lives in California and rides the waves and acts like an American folk artist, I still can’t detatch him from Slowdive, nor do I ever want to.

But this is good, better than the other Mojave 3 record I have heard, Out Of Tune, anyway. I’m just… I’m so not used to this shit! I can’t say it any plainer. The good thing about this record is it’s outward poppiness, wereas before the bands goal was more quiet strums and less incessant riffs. More of a sunset kind of thing. Now this is the band in full swing and as good as they have ever been as far as I’m concerned. Even if it’s good though, I feel like I can’t relate to it on a personal level like I could Slowdive. I’ve heard others say that this is a more stripped down Slowdive, with the feelings less burried. BULLSHIT. This is not anywhere close to Slowdive no matter how you slice or dice it. If anything, I feel like Slowdive is more honest and open. For that reason, I would kill for another Slowdive album whereas Mojave 3 I just don’t care so much about. It’s the style. If Neil wants to write music this way, that’s fine. I just SO don’t feel obligated to stop bitching about missing the old style.

To put it more simply and playfully, I find that Slowdive is more night music and Mojave 3 is more daytime music. From what I have heard, each Slowdive or Mojave 3 record can cover a different part of the day. Just A Day feels something like three or four A.M. Souvlaki is ten P.M. while Pygmalion is midnight. Out of Tune is maybe six P.M., depending on the season. Once again, it’s sunset music, and make what you will of that. Puzzles Like You might be one in the afternoon, or maybe just noon. That’s good. It’s a completely different angle, but it’s a good angle. Once again, I can’t come to grips with it. There are some very cool parts of this album, most of them rather Beatles-esque. Some particulars are Ghost Ship Waiting, Puzzles Like You, and To Hold Your Tiny Toes. It’s pop romance, and it’s really good. Almost every song on the album is good.

And that’s the truth of it, it’s a very good album. I’m just not used to this yet, so it deterred my listening experience. You have no idea how hard it is for me to say that this is very good and well written when I feel so naive for believing in Slowdive so much when Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell have moved away from it. Chances are, at least one of these two great bands will speak to you. I’d even go so far as to say both do speak to me. I really just need to lighten up and get used to Mojave 3. It’s a matter of personal preference. Please don’t take my complaints too seriously. They are the words of a man who is simply too touchy, and he needs to change his way of looking at things so that he can enjoy albums that are clearly good, like this. I feel like I’m sitting across a room from an old crush or something, thinking about how much they have changed. Listen to The Mutineer, the fantastic closer. That’s essentially how I feel. I’m warming up to this, and Slowdive fans surely will, but it just takes a little while.

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