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Album Review

Nine songs in 23 minutes seems more like the description of the first part of a mid-'70s prog rock "exploration," but it's the entirety of the final Moles album, Instinct. Economical in terms of length, it's a fairly splashy dream in terms of listening — anyone wondering why Eric Matthews' solo work is garbage compared to Cardinal need only given a listen to this to figure out where inspiration lay. With the help of a slew of friends like Hamish Kilgour and David Newgarden, but mostly working on his own, Richard Davies inadvertently predicted where characters in bands like the Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Super Furry Animals would end up shortly thereafter. With rock treated here as the foundation for Baroque pop, horns and keyboards are as prominent as guitar and bass (if not more so) and vocals creatively sigh, whisper, and quietly sing, as Instinct revisits a 1968-era Never Never Land caught somewhere between Van Dyke Parks and the Home Counties. It's not a bad acid trip by any means, though there are the spooky vocal oddities and sudden guitar/drum hits on "Already in Black," the best song never written during Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett era. Meanwhile, the increasingly nervous but never out of control singing on "Cassie Peek" rides a careful arrangement to a quietly unsettled conclusion. Davies' calmer moments are just as striking — "Cars for Kings Cross," right in the middle of the album, is a flat-out winner of a psych classic, his overdubbed vocal exchange and stripped-down arrangement of guitar, bells, and little more suggesting an altered state instead of spelling it all out. Meanwhile, "Raymond, Did You See the Red Queen?" tackles a familiar Pet Sounds-era piano motif but, instead of Brian Wilson's reveries, Davies looks at a fantasy Hollywood with the crumbling edge of Edward Ka-Spel.


Formed: Sydney, Australia

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s

The Moles were an Australian chamber pop band led by Richard Davies, a gifted singer/songwriter who later found success on American soil both as a solo artist and as one-half of the short-lived duo Cardinal. Formed in Sydney in the late '80s, the Moles debuted in 1990 with the EP Untune the Sky, followed a year later by another EP, Tendrils & Paracetamol. After the 1992 release of their first full-length release -- also titled Untune the Sky -- the group relocated to New York, where they released...
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Instinct, The Moles
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