Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mott the Hoople - Mott

This follow up to the block-buster All The Young Dudes shows the Hoople at the top of their game – great songs, great playing and great self-production. What a shame that it was all about to fall apart.

But, what a record! Opening with the piano-pounding “All the Way to Memphis”, Ian laments the problems of touring (expounded on in his cool tome, “Confession of a Rock Star”). This was definitely an extension of Dudes – loud guitars, honking sax and keyboards propel this hi-energy romp, making it another Mott classic!

“Whizz Kids” is pure Hunter – a little more eclectic (though still rockin’, in its way) but the band makes it their own. Ian creates a ballad in “Hymn for the Dudes”, complete with faux-strings and female choruses, and is almost cinematic in feel, though it does build to a loud climax.

Back to more a more standard r’n’r song with “Honaloochie Boogie”, a super number with some lyrical nods to the enthusiasm of the 50’s. One of their finest is the fierce ode to frustration, complete with a mock inter-band fistfight, called “Violence”. Fine Mick Ralphs guitar playing highlights this number, while the chorus is augmented with violin from Graham Preskett, giving a play on words to the song’s title.

“Drivin’ Sister” is another pure rocker, co-written by Hunter and Ralphs, similar in feel to something like “Jerkin’ Crocus” from the previous record. Driven (so to speak!) by Ralphs’ excellent guitar – which sounds amazing throughout the album – this is MTH as a fun, uninhibited r’n’r machine!

This is immediately contrasted by the “Ballad of Mott the Hoople”, called by bassist Overend Watts “sad and pessimistic”. Truly autobiographical with insightful lines about the band (organist Verden Allen had left by this record, Overend truly was a r'n'r star and drummer Buffin is mentioned for his "childlike dreams") and the unforgettable phrase “rock’n’roll’s a loser’s game, it mesmerizes, I can’t explain”. An epic Hunter melancholy song.

They change right back with Ralphs’ fantastic “I’m a Cadillac” – not quite as frantically rockin’ as some of the other tunes, but a phenomenal song filled with melody (sung by Mick), superb guitar lines and a wonderful chorus – “loving you is hard enough, loving you is strange”. Ian may have been the brains and the focal frontman of the group, but I think Mick was the musical soul. The song morphs into an echo-laden showpiece for Ralphs and displays how emotional his playing could be.

One of my favorite acoustic Mott songs is certainly “I Wish I Was Your Mother”. Sweet, heart-wrenching and with a terrifically melodic mandolin played by Mick. Honestly, I’m not sure what Ian really wants in the lyrics of this song, but it is one of their most emotional tunes and a fine closer.

This CD has several bonus tracks, including the b-side to the “Honaloochie…” single, “Rose” and demos of “Honaloochie” (much slower and less complete but with different instrumentation) as well as a song called “Nightmare”. Completing the set is an almost sloppy live version of “Drivin’ Sister” which is pretty damn fun.

Certainly one of the best bands - who did have a phenomenal look and style - and one of the best albums of the early 70’s!