Easily the best album released this autumn, Mug Museum is the latest stunning offering from the Welsh gods that must swirl around the dark recesses of Cate Le Bon’s mesmeric head. It’s a fusion of weighty alt rock with the somersaulting beauty of Welsh folk, creating a rare blend that’s hard to compare. However, if you were looking to put le Bon’s third full length album in any drawers you’d probably have to file it somewhere with Euros Childs, Nico, John Cale, Cate Bush and a minor sugar lump of The Coral’s Butterfly House.
It opens out with a sound that’s unmistakably Cate Le Bon in the beginning of opening track, I Can’t Help You, even before her Bush-Nico-Cale signature vocals kick in. It’s a great return for the Welsh singer and the best part is that there’s only more genius left to come on Mug Museum. It’s off-key and out of kilter, but equally catchy with some great distorted garage band guitar. It’s also got a few surreal lyrics, including the line, “beat my like egg yolks”.
Melodic distortion and a funked up bass line underpin the folk inspired Are You With Me Now?. Check out the music video of the opening single from the album below. It’s tough not to be completely transfixed by it’s French pop subterfuge, nodding provocatively in the direction of Jane Berkin and Serge Gainsbourg in the chorus.
Art-rock at its best rules the roost on the brilliantly titled heavy-hitter, Juke. It’s got some amazing transitions that go from Paper Airoplanes to The Velvet Underground via David Bowie’s China Girl. It flows into the super cool funk bass train folk of No God. It’s got some pretty simple constructs, but it’s far from stark, wrapping itself around some warm tones and beautifully delivered lyrics.
Things cool down with I Think I Knew, a quiet organ and guitar duet with Perfume Genius (AKA Mike Hadreas). It’s a pretty song with a deep seated root in folk inspired vocals. It’s the quiet lull before the dark organ storm of the brilliant Wild. It’s our track of the album, with the kind of bleak organ doom that would have made Ray Manzarek proud.
Sisters is similarly inclined, but with a much faster pace and more direct action. It’s got more cool than a penguin’s secret stash of Fisherman’s Friends, making it a close contender to Wild. Le Bon’s vocals are amazing and the organ-guitar intertwine is about as inspired we’ve heard in while.
Mug Museum returns to the quiter side of life with the pipe dreams of Mirror Me. It’s also got a beguiling mix of guitar and organ, but ends with a repeating sax jazz riff and electro synth interplay like a slow freak out ending. Cuckoo Through The Walls channels the drums of Maureen Tucker, while mixing in riff drones and a slow soar of a build up. Cate Le Bon has clearly learned a lot from the legacy that John Cale span up in New York during the mad Factory days and it’s a torch that suits her very well.
The closing, title track of the album is another slow one, tracing a piano melody, harmonica drones and the slightly sinister creek of a rocking chair. It’s interspersed with saxaphone blasts, creating a surreal ending that’s not as approachable as earlier tracks, but it’s probably a better album for it.
Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum review: 5/5
Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum track list:
1. I Can’t Help You
2. Are You With Me Now?
4. No God
5. I Think I Knew
8. Mirror Me
9. Cuckoo Through The Walls
10. Mug Museum
Cate Le Bon, Are You With Me Now? video:
Cate Le Bon 2014 tour dates:
7th February – Islington Assembly Hall, London
8th February – The Gate, Cardiff
10th February – Junction 2, Cambridge
11th February – Leaf Cafe, Liverpool
12th February – Broadcast, Glasgow
13th February – The Sage, Gateshead
15th February – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
16th February – The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds