Watching The Tide Roll Away, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Watching The Tide Roll Away, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

A criticism only infrequently levelled at Ruban Nielson’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra is that for all the style and panache the Portland-based troupe employ when reviving a smoky ’60s aesthetic, only rarely do they realise their full potential. The eponymous début featured a few instances here and there (Ffunny Ffrends and How Can U Luv Me continue to stand out as seemingly indelible exemplars) while the considerably more contemporary follow-up, II, carried with it a more or less equivalent quota of aural gold with the sassy So Good At Being In Trouble this time its titan. All of which prompts the inquisition as to whether it’s Nielson’s songwriting itself which can transpire to be pretty hit ‘n’ miss and certainly as the born Aucklander here turns his forever retrospective attentions to Otis Redding’s seminal (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay, UMO contrive to piece together what may yet prove to be one of their most memorable endeavours. Its rhythm section Speedo-tight and its guitars shiny if simultaneously terse, as he croons the King of Soul’s relaxed witter in what sounds an almost Creole tone it’s his so too snappy vocal delivery which really sets the mood, for it resembles that of a forgotten R&B great of some discarded epoch now consigned to oblivion. Indeed, you could roam some 2,000 miles without stumbling upon one quite like it, and it’s songs of such unerring quality it seemingly yearns to sing…

II is out now on Jagjaguwar, whilst Ruban et al. return to play Camden’s Electric Ballroom November 7th.

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