Underexposed Albums is a series looking at music releases which lack the public attention they deserve, highlighting albums that have fewer than 5000 listeners on last.fm.
Last.fm listeners as of 13th July 2015: 526
Lord Of Lightning (3:40)
Riding In The Rain (3:11)
Magic Moon (4:37)
It Was Love (3:13)
Speak For Yourself (2:50)
The Jungle Of Your Mind (7:24)
Crickets Don’t Cry (5:24)
It can be a blessing and a curse to emerge from a fertile musical crescent: observe the misfortune that affected Oxford band The Candyskins in the documentary Anyone Can Play Guitar, unable to capture the mainstream success which their peers Radiohead and Supergrass did. Thirsty Moon have the same problem in relation to German rock of the 1970s. Formed by the merger of two already disparate groups (one of which, The Shakespears, is usually labelled as ‘jazz-soul’), they have a chaotic and all-inclusive sound reminiscent of Chicago (Transit Authority). Even the Krautheads who do know of the band, though, will probably be more familiar and comfortable with their early experimental output, with most blogs throwing aside their work from Blitz onwards as ‘conventional’, poppy, lazy. Thankfully we live in a more enlightened era of music commentary these days, and the revolt against rockism is in full swing. While I won’t be staking a claim for Britney Spears’ Blackout to be the best album of the century so far any time soon, it’s vital we get away from the narrative that a turn towards pop music constructions is a defeat, by-the-numbers songwriting, too easy.
The album kicks off with ‘Lord Of Lightning’, hitting the ground running with some crashing Boston/Who style power chords, a dad-rock equivalent of Sonic Youth’s ‘The Sprawl’. The next track, ‘Riding In The Rain’, picks up the pieces from the lightning-rod opener but with a calculated funk groove on the bass which is one of the album’s defining sounds. Part of what defines rockists is their investment in rock’s essential seriousness, that rock music is capable of dealing with significant themes in a way that pop, with its fleeting pleasures, cannot. In Thirsty Moon’s case, this gives no account for the boldness in reclaiming the word blitz in the album’s title, nor for its use of lightning and storms in a manner similar to contemporaneous German artists in other fields. Werner Herzog and Anselm Kiefer, on film and canvas respectively, construct massive pieces which attest to the sheer enormity of nature, and use it to try and ascertain what lies at the heart of man when it is confronted by those overwhelming forces. Such a motivation in German culture comes from the trauma of war and post-war ruin, as well as an attempt to find a mythological underpinning that is free from Nazification. Unfortunately Thirsty Moon are often trammelled by the vocabulary of 1970s rock music which can lean into proggy cliche from time to time, a case in point being the sound effects of horses hooves in ‘Riding In The Rain’. It is more Conan The Barbarian than Aguirre, but it becomes one of the album’s strengths; a lack of willing to take itself too seriously.
Occasionally a dark current bubbles up from under the surface: ‘Speak For Yourself’ comes off as one of the darkest Bond themes never recorded, and the album’s culmination is the penultimate track, ‘The Jungle Of Your Mind’ with a percussive solo both dense and tense, a more equatorial version of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ that peters out with no resolution. The title indicates that the lightning and humidity forbade by the beginning of the album has its roots in the imagination; a suggestion of self-awareness in what is often a pantomime album. Such moments are usually the album’s weakest, whether it is the too-earnest combination of plucked guitar and synthesised woodwind in ‘It Was Love’, or the cheesy guitar mixing in ‘Sudwind’. The latter track is rescued by its groove though, and the album rarely lets up from being oddly danceable. The final track, ‘Crickets Don’t Cry’ is something of a damp squib from the shamanistic rainstorm conjured by the album, but this is inevitable given that each track strives for an epic quality.
For all the necessity of a critical rehabilitation of pop music, we should be wary of dividing rock and pop into two opposing schools. Thirsty Moon’s Blitz is one of the finest examples of how middle-of-the-road rock of the 1970s (even from Germany!) could lend an ear to rhythm tracks being put down by bands like Earth, Wind and Fire or KC & the Sunshine Band. Even your Dad can cut the rug from time to time.