Otis Redding and Phil Collins have little in common save for one trivial bit: they both began their respective careers as drummers. Pat Mahoney isn’t quite in that category yet, but after watching his indefatigable energy (and running shorts) seated behind the drum kit as he powered LCD Soundsystem for a decade, it’s startling to realize that the honeyed vocals heard on Museum of Love’s debut album belong to him.
Even beyond that prominent role in the label’s flagship act, Mahoney and bandmate Dennis McNany are already DFA family. The latter released a handful of singles as Jee Day, lent a hand to Shit Robot’s We Got a Love, mixed a Panthers single, and even recorded a track for the Rapture. But rather than shade towards LCD’s sound, Museum of Love pull from the playbook of DFA’s other big band, Holy Ghost!, favoring the timbres, patch settings, and smooth productions of elegant 1980s new wave and nu-romantic acts.
After the minute-long instrumental opener “Horizonlator”, Mahoney’s voice is front and center on “Down South”, and it’s such a dead ringer for Bryan Ferry in his Roxy Music prime—right down to his aching near-sigh—that it makes you wonder how such a secret weapon was not deployed on an LCD single. Even during Nirvana‘s heyday, Kurt Cobain let Dave Grohl sing on a B-side. And as Mahoney gets his voice to soar towards a falsetto and then swoop down into a lower register, McNany has his battery of synths shadow him, making for a dynamic track that keeps revealing new surprises across its runtime. But the favor is returned when Mahoney’s tireless disco hi-hat patterns entwine with McNany’s distorted thumb piano riff on the more uptempo polyrhythmic track “In Infancy”.
Gentle arpeggios open “FATHERS”, again buoying Mahoney’s heartbreaking falsetto, which this time balances equal parts Ferry and Mark Hollis circa Talk Talk’s debut. Glints of other bands appear and withdraw throughout the album, be it Art of Noise (check the “Moments in Love” exhalations in the background of “Learned Helplessness in Rats (Disco Drummer)”), Spandau Ballet, Level 42, Ultravox and more, but the duo is careful to not allow such grace notes turn into direct homages.
The album’s centerpiece and first single “The Who’s Who of Who Cares” starts off as the perfect track to segue from something like Todd Terje’s “Inspector Norse”, a spry Italo synth riff augmented by a dry drum machine tock. Mahoney intimately coos as horns and female voices dart in and out of the mix. For a track with such insouciance in its chorus, Mahoney nevertheless conveys the deepest sincerity.
That crafty juxtaposition of conflicting sentiments also comes to the fore on “Monotronic”, a dreamy song that, heard post-election, seems to have gained resonance overnight. A jittery yet narcotized keyboard motif that could come from any Cluster album moves behind a sleepy Mahoney vocal, who murmurs indolent first-world problem lines like: “I wasn’t made for this much happiness” and “The waking world was never meant for me.” But as the song picks up momentum and starts to crest, Mahoney’s voice pivots and midway through the track, a deeper commentary comes into play: “Welcome to our nation/ With its fatal concentration of wealth and loss/ All we know for certain is that we could bear the burden of waking up.” So when Mahoney comes back to the admission about “this much happiness,” that once-sweet voice now has just a hint of bitterness and resignation to it.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1xkQpUx