New West Records
Long ago, Daniel Romano proclaimed himself to be the mighty “King of Mosey,” so it’s only fitting that the musical monarch has given his latest long player an album title saluting his lofty label. Thing is, Mosey has Romano acting a lot different than he did just three years ago when he delivered his old country-leaning breakthrough, Come Cry With Me. On a visual front, he’s apparently put his rhinestone-sequined Nudie suits and Stetson hats in storage, opting to wear a more casual, clamshell-print Adidas tracksuit in the video for the new record’s “(Gone Is) All But a Quarry.” His short-trimmed hair and bushy moustache have since been replaced with a clean shaven face and a wildly tousled ‘fro.
Musically, he’s grown out of the sounds of his earlier LPs, opting for a more wide-reaching approach this time around. If you thought he was turning his back on the world of mosey, though, keep in mind that this is a genre tag he made up himself. As such, the King can do whatever the hell he pleases.
A swell of cacophonic symphony noise rises quickly on the intro to “Valerie Leon” before the tune gels into its ’60s orchestral pop arrangement. Between Romano’s twangy baritone, the triumphant brass, and the sped up bossa nova beat, the song seems like it could have come straight out of Lee Hazlewood’s workshop, though the song’s luscious, descending string melody has a hint of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” to it. Lyrically, Romano takes us through the excitement of sneaking around with the woman he desires, the aforementioned Valerie Leon, only to lose interest once the neighbourhood approves of their union. The fickleness of his heart suggests that he was more into the chase than the prize. As if mocking the narrator, the song rings out with a situationally uncomfortable peal of female laughter.
This type of arrangement is explored a few times on the album, with “Sorrow (For Leonard and William)” finding a lonely, desperate Romano staring at the wrinkles of an empty pillow before the ghostly voice of a woman courses through the speakers with the message, “So long, baby.” The maximalist excess of the song seemingly makes up for the in-song figure’s emotional emptiness. More clunky a variation of this style is “Mr. E Me,” a self-inspecting cut with a pun-centric premise just a shade less forehead-smacking than receiving a prank call from a Mike Hawk.
Despite these similarly-minded Mosey entries, there’s plenty of diversity to the LP. “The Collector” is infectious with its Galt MacDermot-modeled, psyche-melting ooze of organs and tambourine. The song gets crazy creepy, though, once Romano rattles of all of the pretty things he’s acquired, from red butterflies and blue beetles to a woman begging to be free. “I Had to Hide Your Poem In a Song” is beer parlour blues, while “Maybe Remember Me” is a spritely, roots rock jangle. Occasionally sprinkled between tracks are wildly grooved in-betweeners that explore filthy French funk with raw fuzz bass work, spectral whooping, conga drum rhythms and more. These might actually be the most minding-bending and immediately gratifying moments on Mosey.
Oddly, it’s the more traditionally ramblin’ tracks that line up with Romano’s past work that seem to drag Mosey down. “Hunger Is a Dream You Die In” is a song about ambition, dreams, and drive, but feels a little too in line with what the songwriter already accomplished over the past couple of years. Despite being the single, “(Gone Is) All But a Quarry” is a bit too sleepy a weeper to leave much of an impact. More affecting is the dour “One Hundred Regrets Avenue,” a bitter, dejected piano ballad that depressingly caps with the discovery: “love is but a virus from the best girl on the street.”
One could get complacent while ruling their own roost, but Romano is pushing himself beyond trad-country sounds on his latest album. There are some growing pains to behold on the LP, but it’s comforting to know that the King of Mosey is not one to rest on the throne too contently.
– review by Gregory Adams