MOTT THE HOOPLE Mott (Music On Vinyl)
For a first, proper, album-length listen to Mott The Hoople, “Mott”, the band’s 1973 album, has me all conflicted. There’s something uneasy about their juxtaposition of hard rock and glam camp that I’m not entirely down with. Take “All The Way From Memphis”, for example. Whilst I’m delighted to finally own it after being familiar with at least some of it for years as the soundtrack to one of the chapter headings in my favourite film, Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking The Waves”, on hearing it complete I love the verses (well, apart from some dated racial terminology that I suspect would be legislated out of existence should it wander anywhere near the top ten nowadays) but find the choruses teeth-gratingly annoying. “Whizz Kid” flips the coin for me, with a chorus that works and a verse that doesn’t. I realise Bowie was their benefactor, donating “All The Young Dudes” to the cause, but my, is it ever obvious here, the song sounding as if caught halfway between “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy Stardust”. “Honaloochie Boogie” is sunk by some risible vocal effects that do not wear the decades lightly, and, as with the “Clockwork Orange”y social malaise of “Violence”, highlights a propensity towards clutter where cleaner arrangements might, just might, have pulled the material through. At times the album almost sounds like the work of a thrift store Roxy Music, particularly ironic with Andy Mackay playing sax on the album’s big singles.
There are moments, though, when they shrug off their contemporary influences (although I think it would still be fair to say that Ian Hunter’s heard a mid-60s Dylan album or three) and deliver a kind of careworn introspection that’s far more palatable today. These would include the self-mythologizing of “Hymn For The Dudes” and “The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople” and the lovely but not lovely mandolin-wound “I Wish I Was Your Mother”, reporting on a relationship being riven apart by a protagonist seemingly powerless to stop himself. The comfortable, old-fangled chug of “I’m A Cadillac / El Camino Dolo Roso” is made less distinctive by Ian Hunter ceding vocal duties to Mick Ralphs, but improves considerably during a delicate, measured instrumental coda.
Music On Vinyl have yet to ascend to the top rank of reissue labels. Admittedly, they might not have the best source material to work with, but this issue of “Mott” sounds a bit grimy and grubby, certainly not the “audiophile vinyl pressing” promised by the cover sticker. It is, however, more honestly mediocre than the dreck foisted on the record-buying public by Universal’s Back To Black series.