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Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra - V

Sean Lawrenson reviews the latest effort from Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

By Sean Lawrenson, First Year English

The latest album from the New Zealand band is a complex mix of introspective lyrics about life and love, all with the brooding energy that has become a state mark in Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s catalogue.

The first song on Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s latest album V, called ‘The Garden’ is a look at love in a refreshingly gloomy way. The importance of a first song to an album cannot be understated, with it setting the tone for what follows. Have a song that clashes with the rest of the songs and the first song becomes an instant skip, but with ‘The Garden’, the band nail on the head not only in introducing the themes they explore on the album, but tying it together nicely from a musical point of view as well. The guitar solo that follows ‘Hold on tight / ‘Cause it’s violent after dark in the garden’ is enigmatic as instantly wakes up the listener to what is in store.

There is very little to be critiqued about the record, but if I were to poke holes, the delivery from frontman Ruban Nielson can at times seem a little like it is plodding along, but this is something that has become accustomed to UMO’s work. For instance, the first verse of ‘Guilty Pleasures’ has some interesting things to say, moving from love to wider society, but it is really a case of whether or not you’re a fan on this style of singing.

The song writing itself, however, is still extremely strong, with Nielson’s introspection and comments on wider issues in full view. In a song like ‘Layla’ the theme of love and friendship and explores it beautifully, with lyrics like Midnight and I’m drying your tears on my sleeve/ Let’s leave the unread message on ice please." It is clear that there was a vision in the record which has been fulfilled. The songs spiral and leave you either endlessly wanting more or satisfied beyond belief.

The ending stages of the record are also noteworthy for the decision to end on a purely instrumental note. It felt to me as if Nielson had said all he had wanted to on the songs prior, and leaving the album on a purely musical note was a very nice touch, the listener is able to gather themselves, especially after the penultimate song ‘I killed Captain Cook’, with the final two lines "With Cook’s blood on my hands, the spell was broken there", which is in turn close out by an acoustic guitar.

The guitar section at the end of Captain Cook acts almost as a mini-interlude, a song within a song, leading to the finale in ‘Drag’, a bouncy, more electric, six-minute song which feels very much like something you would listen to late at night. In my eyes, it is a record built for that type of evening, a fresh summer night when the sun has finally gone down, and what you are left with are truly mesmerising songs, built off the strength of Ruban Nielson’s immense song writing ability.

Featured image: Jagjaguwar

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