Amongst all the riches of twenty-first-century Canadian independent music, Spencer Krug sits with the likes of Owen Pallett, Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire, with Sunset Rubdown’s – apparently final album – Dragonslayer arguably his high water mark. Now, returning under his Moonface guise for a not-quite-full-length with Finnish instrumentalists Siinai, the result is My Best Human Face.
The Finns’ involvement – having worked with Krug for 2012’s Heartbreaking Bravery – is a welcome one. They are often utilised to create a ‘big’ sound that moves occasionally into the euphoric – complementing Krug’s characteristically unusual voice and lyrics. But, sadly, it too often falls frustratingly short. The cosmic near space-rock of ‘Prairie Boy’ steadily builds, with dancing and deft synths aside a sparing but yearning melody. It ends without warning, mid-riff; an irritating cut-off. There was obviously more to give. The foreplay was exciting, yes, but there was no climax. There are other moments of frustration, too.
‘Ugly Flower Pretty Vase’ is a cool, bass-driven track built on a foundation of rhythm. But what starts of promisingly fails to really push on into anything other than what came before, until its final 90 seconds which redeems things. It ends in a cacophony of keyboards, synths, guitars and occasional vocals. It’s the track where Krug’s vocal style is the most effective – not too much, not too little.
There are a handful of choral moments – it’s how it all starts – that add more weight to Krug’s words, which can somehow make the upbeat sound melancholic. His trademark warbling is no less colourful on an album that moves around the moods, from the pulsing, rhythmical and repetitive rock of ‘Risto’s Riff’ to the Eighties synth-pop-styled storytelling of ‘Them Call Themselves Old Punks’.
‘City Wrecker’, a long, down-tempo lament to Montreal, is steadier and safer than ‘Ugly Flower Pretty Vase’ but with much of the same winding, contemplative tone. It also offers up one of the record’s most curious and unfathomable lines: “Jenny Lee I know that my behaviour was probably party why you turned into a blade of grass / and a blade of steel.” That said, there are a few contenders. Closer ‘The Queen of Both Darkness and Light’ is, simply, a lethargic non-event.
My Best Human Face is not a complete disappointment. The quality and intrigue found in almost all of Spencer Krug’s work – under whatever name and working with whoever – is almost always of merit. It does, however, seem a tad disappointing. Just seven tracks seems an odd length for an album, especially when they are chunky (all between four minutes 40 and seven minutes, most around five-and-a-half-minutes) rather than substantial. Ultimately, it is hard to shake the feeling that My Best Human Face should have given a lot more.
6Luke Slater's Score