Does anybody fancy a bit of late night sexy with me? go on sugar, treat yourself. Just sit your sweet cheeks down over here next to me, mind my cowboy boots now, I’ll just turn the lights off and set the lava lamp to ‘befuddle’ before slipping something more comfortable on the turntable. Yeah, Phosphorescent Muchacho specifically ‘Ride On/Right On’ if that doesn’t do the trick then I’m not really a badass sexy bachelor type with a neat line in patter at all.
Don’t be a drag and come around here expecting any of that dang subjectivity nonsense. Phosphorescent is skinny indie dude Matthew Houck’s vehicle, he plays everything he can and then gets other folk in to help as needed. He has staked out his own neat corner here. Muchacho is a wonderful LP, not a flawless one but one imbued with a rather groovy mix of dusty Americana, effortless cool, chemically aided numbness and very raw feeling; if we’re partying here** then it’s possibly just to stop us weeping. Oh and a couple of sexy bits, for all of us lovers left alive.
Muchacho* is book-ended by strange Kraftwerkian chants called, respectively ‘Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)’ and ‘Sun’s Arising (A Koan, An Exit)’, the sort of thang I can imagine stoned types improvising at dawn somewhere beautiful … just before I reverse over them. It’s all bollocks.
Then we’re straight into the real meat of the LP on ‘Song For Zula’, Houck’s riff on the visceral, feral, untidy nature of love. The lyrics are really something, the music spare and effortlessly widescreen – take a bow Bobby Hawk on fiddle and Scott Stapleton on pedal steel, as well as Mr Houck on ‘Drum n bass n fiddle loops’, gotta love trad country instrumentation. Love ain’t pretty in this telling, it’s a raw transformative force and not always for the best either. The words riff on ‘Ring of Fire’, to great effect:
So some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a caging thing
Just a killer come to call from some awful dream
O and all you folks, you come to see
You just stand there in the glass looking at me
But my heart is wild, and my bones are steam
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free
It’s the sort of song that can justify an entire recording career and one I find really moving, possibly just because of how well he sells the vocal; tragic, trapped and triumphant.
You already know how sexy ‘Ride on/Right on’ is, just picture your humble author sprawled face down on a sheepskin rug clad only in a Stetson and novelty slippers – yes, that sexy. It has a wonderful rickety groove and a perfect late night vibe, ‘Take your greedy hands, lay em on me’, yeah babe. To jump straight from that into the emotionally injured ‘Terror In The Canyons (The Wounded Master)’ shows the emotional dexterity involved in Muchacho. It’s another great track, with a slightly Hispanic country vibe about it, all about doomed love^ and hard-won wisdom.
Ignoring ‘A Charm/A Blade’ because for reasons best-known to himself Mr Houck has grafted an Abba chorus onto a perfectly good, perfectly innocent passing song (not a good thing), we happen across the trembling country waltz of ‘Muchacho’s Tune’. On this tune Houck recognizes that ‘I’ve been fucked up and I’ve been a fool’ but he’ll fix himself up for the right person, it is romantic if you believe him about how empty and unfulfilling all that hedonism was. It’s one thing to be contrite and a little self-loathing, another to do it with a wistful half-smile remembering how great it felt at the time.
My two favourite tunes on Muchacho are up next, the sad ‘A New Anhedonia’^* and the soaring, rather beastly ‘The Quotidian Beasts’. The former is dignified and stately, a true lament for the hedonism of yesteryear and of the futility of ritualistically following the same steps to an imagined state of happiness – it is a rather beautiful thing indeed, hard-won wisdom. The latter track is an uneasy paean to pleasures of appetite with a brilliant tune and some appropriately wonderful tuneful yowling. The proper songs on the LP are rounded off by the querulous, very country, break-up of ‘Down To Go’.
Now I’m not big on anything too country-flavoured, it just isn’t my thing and Houck keeps his Americana anchored just on the right side of Bob Dylan and Neil Young for my tastes. There are definite echoes of both artists on Muchacho but nothing too overpowering. With the exception of a couple of blips here and there this is a really great thoughtful album, the lyrics are excellent and it just conjures a really distinct atmosphere.
Oops, my Stetson just fell off.
*and judging by the high nipple count on the artwork we certainly are.
**literally ‘boy’ but better translated as ‘kid’, in a more casual sense of things.
^slightly different to ‘domed love’, which is basically, shagging in a tent.
^*I worked it out without looking it up, being so Goddamn clever and all, basically it is an inability to feel pleasure / a lack of capacity for happiness.