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Motorpsycho - Let Them Eat Cake CD (album) cover

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Motorpsycho

 

Eclectic Prog

3.95 | 95 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Lewa
4 stars

Ridiculously well instrumented, melancholy, crazy psyche pop.

"Let Them Eat Cake" sounds different to any other Motorpsycho album I've heard. Out of their discography, I'd say it is most similar to the Fishtank session, they did with Jaga Jazzist. But still, "Let Them Eat Cake" is a lot more poppy and less jazzy than "In The Fishtank".

Uncharacteristically, this album is not heavy at all. The overall atmosphere is extremely laidback, melancholy, even a little gloomy. This feeling is conveyed through drifting, croaky vocals that sound laconic most of the time. At least three people share the duty of lead vocalist on this album. It doesn't really matter though, as they all use a similar melancholic, croaky style. The guitar work, that is often acoustic and soft, understated but varied, adds to the melancholic feel. Melodies are important on this album. The vast majority of them are harmonic and beautiful, the vocal melodies often sound deliberately simple.
The album has a slightly hippy and very retro feel to it. It borrows heavily from 60/70 pop music, mainly from psyche influenced bands, but jazzy elements are present, too. Half a dozen bands come to my mind whenever I hear this album, everybody from the Beach Boys and the Beatles to the Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and Brian Eno. I find the album anything but boring though, mainly due to the incredibly varied instrumentation. I heard at least violins, cello, contrabass, trumpet, horn, trombone, saxophone, clavinette, piano and Fender Rhodes. Above, the site lists even more instruments, which I didn't even recognize (or was unsure of).


The opener The Other Fool is a contemplative, mid tempo song that starts out with a beautiful string quartet melody. The strings - as well as trombone and trumpet - continue to accompany electric and acoustic guitar, bass and laconic hippy vocals. The track contains an understated twang guitar solo as a middle part, before it ends in the same vein it began.

Upstairs-downstairs is a very slow, tranquil acoustic ballad. The brass section and strings flood the song with beautiful, soft melodies until the rest of the band becomes quite unimportant.

Big surprise is a melodious ballad that features staccato piano and harmonic singing with a "papapaah" chorus la Beach Boys. The vocal melody sounds rather simplistic, almost like a children's tune. It is sung like one, too, in a way, that makes clear this was intentional. The track sounds quiet tongue in cheek to me, though some listeners might not like the intentionally amateurish feel to the singing. Even though the song features simple, poppy vocals, it is notably well instrumented (piano, Fender Rhodes and moog, I think) and played.

Walkin' with J is the hardest, rockiest track on the album. A catchy and rocky trombone, lots of harmonic singing, Fender Rhodes and clavinette are featured here. This is the song that sounds most like "classic" Motorpsycho to me. It is still funkier than a typical track, though.

The funky mood continues with Never Let You Out. Clavinette and harmonic singing are employed again. The excellent brass section accompanies a slightly silly song with a sophisticated swing arrangement, and somehow it sounds very fitting.

Whip That Ghost is entirely instrumental and could almost be called Jazz Fusion. The driving rhythm, percussion elements, and funky guitar and piano transport me to the Caribbean every time I listen to this.

Stained glass brings back the calm, tranquil atmosphere of upstairs-downstairs. This track is more minimalist though. A contrabass adds soothing vibrations. Horns are used, but only sparsely. The track is dominated by floating acoustic guitars, before a spacey slide guitar takes up more of the work. The singing is even more croaky and uninterested than usual.

My best friend somehow comes across as extremely melancholy, silly and serious at the same time. Understated guitars dominate the track, the vocal melody sounds simplistic and reminds me of a children's tune again, the "woohoo"s of the choir are extremely cheesy, and the lounge-style jazz piano takes the cake. I have no idea why the piano goes together with the rest of the song, but it works.

30/30 stands out as the most ambient track of the album. It brings Brian Eno to mind, but Post Rock seems to have been an influence as well. The song starts (and ends) with a "noise" section, produced by strings, brass and some kind of gong. After that a "clock" starts ticking, while the strings form a wall of sound, that doesn't move anywhere for a long time. Singing starts up in the same laconic style the album is soaked in. The track picks up sound, as piano and guitar join in. This wall of sound crumbles and gives way for a section of long, haunting brass notes. As the brass section fades away, the clock and string wall start up again, to rise until they quietly explode into the outro-noise.


For me, this is a 4 star album, even though I can imagine that some proggers would rate it lower.
For one thing, some listeners might be bothered by the vocals on this album. Yes, objectively one could say, they sound like stoned hippies who can't sing. To me, it seems like the band tries to emulate the way children would sing. (They do this without using high voices, though.) I can see that some listeners will find this grating and/or amateurish. But they found a vocal style, which fits the album. It goes well with the simple vocal melodies and with the psychedelic feel of most songs. I don't think the vocals clash with the sophisticated instrumentation either. This contrast rather adds to the overall craziness of the record. That's only my personal opinion, of course.
Some people may also feel that the tracks on this album are too short and essentially pop tunes. In my opinion, they may be pop tunes, but only if one took away anything but the core band (drums, vocals, guitar, bass). As long as these songs include the string-, brass- and piano-sections they sound like prog to me. They even sound slightly insane.

To me, these songs sound experimental because of the stark contrast between simple vocal melodies and "amateurish" singing on one hand, and dense instrumentation with good brass and string arrangements on the other. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "Let Them Eat Cake" contains some real jazz, but the contrast is still big enough.)
Why did they want a string quartet to make some psyche pop?
Why did they need an extra pianist along with this big band and big production to record a Beach Boys cover?
I don't know, but they had the right idea. The end result sounds just the right amount of strange to sound brilliant to me.

Lewa | 4/5 |

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