Statues, Moloko’s fourth studio album, is a record of epic emotions and epic musical ambition. Begun late 2000 in Sheffield and completed at the band’s London studio, it follows 2000’s Things To Make And Do - which contained the hit singles ‘The Time Is Now’, ‘Pure Pleasure Seeker, ‘Indigo’ and the Boris Dlugosch mix of ‘Sing It Back’ – and 2001’s All Back To The Mine, a double album remix collection. Moving through glacial disco and frosted latin house to wintry torchsong and bitter soul, Statues lays claim to a lineage of classic Sheffield pop that stretches back through Pulp, WARP Records, ABC, The Human League and Cabaret Voltaire.
It seems appropriate that the curious story of Moloko begins – almost a decade ago - with a salacious enquiry. Dublin-born Roisin Murphy’s early heroines were Kim Gordon and Kim Deal, so it was a little off-putting that her parents told her she had a lovely voice – just like Elaine Paige. Mark Brydon was already a veteran of the Sheffield scene and the legendary FON studios (for which he did the architects drawings), and had produced Krush’s seminal early pop/house hit ‘House Arrest’ among many other projects. They met at a party in Sheffield and, for obvious reasons, called their subsequent debut album Do You Like My Tight Sweater?.
Begun in 1994 and released in 1995, …Tight Sweater was both futuristic and out of time; a dayglo confection of warped funk, alien sensuality and wicked humour. Being a girl, a guy and a computer they were lumped in with the trip hop chancers of the day – although as Mark later pointed out, it was simply the modern way of making music and writing songs.
Though their second album, 1998’s I Am Not A Doctor, was a considerably darker affair, buried in its convolutions was a song called ‘Sing It Back’. Mark and Roisin always knew it was a great pop song but, being naturally perverse, had chosen to approach it from a different angle. That a sublime, unsolicited remix should make it the toast of Ibiza and then an international hit seemed only right. The single sold over 500,000 copies and featured on 100+ compilations worldwide.
2000's Things To Make And Do had a warmer, more organic feel which integrated their experience of live performance with their established studio sound. Appearances on the festival circuit that year, including a storming performance at Glastonbury, helped the album go platinum in the UK.
The first, but least important, thing to know about Statues is that it’s the first album Roisin Murphy and Mark Brydon have made as friends rather than lovers. What is most important is that they chose to pursue their creative partnership and that Statues is a focussed, direct and uplifting album. Mark: “In a way, the whole process of making it was the end of a chapter in our relationship and the start of another. It’s a triumph of believing in something enough to ride over all that.” Roisin: “With every record you make, there are points during the making of it when you don’t know whether it’s going to get finished or whether it’s any good – I’ve had that with every record I’ve made with Mark. You take on an epic project and you’re bound to have a crisis of confidence”
Statues is the first Moloko album to simply consist of ten tracks; its predecessors have been unruly children, each a cornucopia of ideas spilling over into sketches and interludes. Statues also represents a change in their way of working. “Up to now,” Mark confirms, “we would make a record without trying to make a plan to shape it. But there was a definite mindset to make something concise.” Unsurprisingly, these ten songs also contain Roisin’s most direct and emotionally honest lyrics – a world away from the stylised hide-and-seek of Tight Sweater. “It’s part and parcel of growing up and accepting yourself; the last record was getting there. I was 19 when I made Tight Sweater, and I knew I was pretending, but if I tried not to, I’d still be pretending. Now, I know myself better.”
Statues does what much of the best disco and pop does: combining extreme emotions with surging, propulsive music to create something transcendent and celebratory. In many ways, it’s ‘Forever More’ that epitomises the album’s achievements: a pure testament to the peak hour dance frenzy, it’s surely a dance floor classic in the making. First single ‘Familiar Feelings’ opens with fragile acoustics and a shiver of strings, builds over an irresistible bassline and reaches flashover in an orchestral whirl. “Mark’s experience and love of orchestration comes from disco, from funk, from Norman Whitfield,” explains Roisin. “We wanted a huge orchestrated dub disco record.”
Mark worked closely with long-time collaborator Eddie Stevens, who co-wrote and scored spectacular arrangements for brass and strings. The orchestrations were so huge that it meant a temporary move for the band – symphonic closer ‘Over & Over’ and ‘The Only Ones’ were recorded at Air studios because they couldn't fit everyone in to their London space. “There was no compromise with ‘Over & Over’,” remembers Mark. “We all felt it should be allowed to be what it is. To be in the studio and have that playing back at you after two weeks of arranging strings was like going to the best gig we’ve ever been to. Me and Roisin and Eddie just sat there giggling – like, ‘Blimey, have we made that?’”
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