Thursday, September 4, 2008

Last Night Something Happened - Monster Movie

Last Night Something Happened

Monster Movie
White Wabbit Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

As most readers are aware, I've temporarily moved to Taiwan and taken SCQ for the ride. Despite this incredibly unsubtle shift in my daily life, I've attempted to keep SCQ free of any travel-blog inspired insipidness. So forgive me on this one, but even when it comes to Taiwanese record stores, I'm likely to screw something up.

Turns out this record isn't new at all. The "2008" I read on the record's back which got me so excited only refers to the year White Wabbit Records decided to bring it over to Asian markets. After a little online investigation, I now know Last Night Something Happened is the band's debut from 2002. Despite this, the record is still 'new' to my adopted homeland, as it is for me, so I've opted to review it as such. I doubt anyone will care enough to complain!

After over two weeks of searching in vain for a record store, I located a tiny stairwell with "CD" mentioned among its Chinese characters. Sure enough, I followed its path and found a decent-sized, second-story store fitted with tons of Japanese, Taiwanese, Classical and Karaoke music, not to mention a decent corner of International music. I'd heard of White Wabbit Records because I had done some preliminary research online before flying out here, but where before I had been told they were an actual record store, here I discovered them to be a label that collects various International Indie records that the Asian population would dig. Mice Parade, Explosions in the Sky and Album Leaf featured among others, my attention was caught by an ominous looking Monster Movie album. I'd heard To the Moon, as well as the far better Transistor, and considered them to be the pop-infused comedown from shoegaze's last stand (due to both lead members being from classic shoegazers Slowdive). Last Night Something Happened, however, I'd never seen, heard of, or listened to, and perhaps because this was my first purchase in a long time, I wanted something new and slightly daring.

Ok, so we all know it isn't so new after all, but Monster Movie's debut certainly warrants my gamble on buying a completely unknown record. Starting with the appropriately titled 'First Trip to the City', Christian Savill and Sean Hewson prove that patience crafts the best albums with a buzzing instrumental of muted organs and sound collages. These increasingly ambient segues are also placed at the midpoint ('Star City') and near its wintry close ('The Same Again'); both extending the cinematic feel of its more rock-oriented songs with the heavy sighs of a long highway (as featured in some stellar cover art that pretty much sold me). 'Shortwave' is the first vocalized song; a mournfully steady rock song, polished with an ambient flare. It's a formula Monster Movie cling close to throughout Last Night Something Happened; dense chords with dewy vocals that maintain their shoegaze heritage while broadening out to a wider pop audience. The same widescreen melancholy applies handily to '4th and Pine' and 'Take Me Away', although 'Waiting' takes the prize on this release, with a bouncy keyboard line and heavenly synths balancing the murky guitar into a sensational pop song (co-sung by regular Slowdive contributor Louise Hewson). For anyone who enjoys Slowdive's or Ulrich Schnauss's later work, there are many favourites to find on Last Night Something Happened. It may be six years old but White Wabbit Records still did me a favour with this one.

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