Another late-night bar. Always late-night bars (by soundtrack if not by actual presence). Give me Gitanes; black coffee after the cheap gin. We’ve exhausted all The Cramps discs on the jukebox – nothing remaining but the Jake Thackray before we call it quits. And all the merchant seamen have set for sail, the hookers, the barflys, the Ezra Pounds tucked up in homely garrets; all that’s left in our late-night bar is the mean face lurking amidst the optics with his haven’t you got homes to go to? drying upon chapped lips, and the dapper gent sat in the corner. Like us he’ll have been here since mid-afternoon, nursing his glass of Pernod or whatever, a guitar case on the floor by his troubadour shoes (or perhaps he sells vacuums door-to-door to merry widows, always ready with a wink and a how’s-yer-father), and just as we’re about to decide to exit he’ll dig his nose out from behind his copy of The Racing Post, and as if addressing shadows far above our station, announce “Hello, I’m John. Would you like to hear a song?”.
The John is question is John Moore (who us grizzled folk will recall as one of many Jesus And Mary Chain inmates, then as leader of the very much under-rated John Moore and The Expressway before slinking about in the background as one third of the glorious Black Box Recorder), and yes – the above actually happened. Well, apart from the John Moore bit. And Ezra Pound – he’s long dead. Were I to admit to a penchant for hanging around the type of bar frequented by stevedores and bad Catholics, that’s my own business; after hiding himself away whilst life, love and living room renaissance man status played out, Moore this month turns up with not just one but two long players – and damn fine they are, too. There may be a strained metaphor or two in my opening paragraph, but you (hopefully) get the gist; Lo-Fi Lullabies and Floral Tributes are very much late night affairs. That moment gone midnight, with all its attendant guilt, tenderness and ennui. Fuck it – let’s have another drink; I promise we’ll still hug in the morning.
Back story: neither album (which come in translucent blue and red vinyl respectively) is new in respect of freshly written and recorded material. Rather, these are tracks Moore has been hoarding up the back stairs for a while – as if we all have two LP’s worth of previously unreleased sonic texture rolling around the attic. This fact should not put the connoisseur off, for there’s nothing gratuitous here – no sense of raiding the archives for raiding’s sake; instead, twin discs of sardonic, thematic cohesion, like another nightcap with that louche, jazz-tinged vaudevillian (both albums feature the maudlin wail of the musical saw, for instance; end of the pier, end of the night, end of).
Floral Tributes is perhaps the more expansive of the two, and therefore more immediate. Swathes of piano and double bass (‘Almost Optimistic’, ‘Though The Eyes Of A Drunk’), Moore working his nicotine-stained vocals, the guitar lines (especially on tracks such as ‘My Old Dancing Shoes’) languid and evocative. Guest stars including Boz Boorer and Sarah Nixey pop up like old friends, the clarinet on the sparkling ‘Smoking On The Cancer Ward’ is almost Dixieland in reproach, ‘Sweet Oblivion’ (the oldest track on the album) hits like a glorious, long-lost Matt Johnson / The The lament, and the whole affair is carried off with aplomb most old fashioned (and therefore timeless, if that’s not pushing too far at oxymoron).
As its name implies, Lo-Fi Lullabies is more intimate – frequently just protagonist and his guitar-backed confessions – which encourages Moore’s lyrical honesty (however slanted) to flower; on tracks such as ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’ I’m reminded of some of Momus’ more pared-back moments (and that’s a compliment). A Jacques Brel chanteur aesthetic transposed across the trials of modernity, perhaps.
So; two records, then. And a most pleasing degree of synergy; when listening (as always: last thing at night; wine and headphones whilst huddled upon the bare floorboards), red then blue compliment each other in a fashion few twin discs of this ilk manage (“The art of conversation is well and truly dead, there’s nothing left to say that hasn’t already been said,” as begins the cello-tinged ‘Giving Up The Ghost’). John Moore (who in his spare time hangs around with ventriloquist dummies – always a highly positive sign in my book) may be about as far from household name as my dear old Auntie Mabel (I somehow get the impression that’s the way he likes it), but should you require your aural entertainment akin to another dawn approaching in an otherwise empty bar, I very much recommend a purchase.
John Moore / Smoking On The Cancer Ward