Momus – Ocky Milk

Momus
Ocky Milk

Ocky Milk, the latest from Momus, was crafted with intention. The intention apparently was to make an album of background bossa nova with injections of Japanese absurdism. Or something like that. Well, Momus may have succeeded but that doesn’t mean that the results were worth the trouble.

My guess is that most listeners will grow tired of the Yellow Submarine lyrics (e.g., phrases like “Playing on a strawberry kazoo” from “Frilly Military”) and the minimalist music before running through the whole disc. It’s one thing to be eccentric and interesting, but it’s another to be eccentric and pedestrian. To me, Ocky Milk tends towards the latter. The beats and handclaps are pure bedroom Casio; the backing basslines are sporadic and perfunctory; the occasional synth strings and keyboard chords don’t add much meoldy; and the dadaist Beefheart lyrics don’t seem to go anywhere. The singing carries the melodies, and it’s the singing that distinguishes one song from another. Musically, not much is going on. It’s a welcome break when an actual guitar joins the fray, as on “Hang Low.” At least then it sounds like some effort went into the song.

“7000 BC,” apart from its errant vocals, may come closest to being both weird and intriguing. Its odd use of melody sounds technically wrong but in a warped way it gives cohesion the composition. It sounds like Snakefinger on psychedelics. “Zanzibar” sounds like a Beatles song from the Rubber Soul school of songwriting: it’s straightforwardly composed and melodic. It exudes an Al Stewart air that makes it refreshingly appealing. Compare that to “Dr Cat,” whose excursion into random noise and hushed, distorted vocals and whistling just seems flat. And then comes “I Refuse To Die.” Its vaudevillian approach seems completely out of place, even if it’s meant to show some range. It sounds like cartoon music.

Laid-back eccentricity has its place in music, to be sure. Ariel Pink has made some brilliant songs. And Beck got his start that way. But generally if you’re going to make this your modus operandi as an artist, you run the risk of making music that’s more interesting to you than it is to anyone else. I feel like that’s what’s happening on Ocky Milk.

It could be that others will celebrate this release. You may be able to connect with this kind of thing better than I. To me, there’s not enough substance here to connect with. It doesn’t have the charm or depth that warrant third or fourth listens. It could also be that this album needs to be put into context with other Momus releases in order to appreciate its stylistic progressions and its artistic development. Taken by itself, though, it may have trouble winning converts to whatever cult following Momus has enjoyed.