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Tony Molina - Kill The Lights (Album Review)

Monday, 06 August 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

On the face of it, Tony Molina appears to be a marketing executive’s worst nightmare.

The Californian’s 12-minute (!) fuzz-pop debut album ‘Dissed and Dismissed’ arrived in 2014, supplementing multi-genre releases with Caged Animal and Ovens and making it hard to identify quite where his fanbase lies. It also doesn't help that his name suggests he's a crooner.

To add another twist his third solo record - a little under 20 minutes this time - is a collection of throwback ‘60s folk-rock compositions that demonstrate Molina’s fabulous guitar playing, talent for melody writing and understated charisma.

We open with Nothing I Can Say, a Byrds-esque ditty that tersely describes a melancholic break-up before a beautiful 12-string guitar line navigates the listener to a surprising outro.

Like much of the album, the song requires several listens to digest - because it is over so early. It’s a neat compositional approach that feels pretty fresh - utilitarian, even - but it can lead to a frustrating and even underwhelming listen.

It’s tough to avoid getting hung up on the short form here. That said, certain songs work incredibly well within their running times. Wrong Town is a jangling lullaby that majestically inhabits its romantic simplicity, while When She Leaves operates superbly as a demonstration of cooled reminiscence, and the guitar work is just great.

On the other hand, the album is rampantly derivative. While Molina clearly has a talent for arrangement, the reality is that ‘Kill the Lights’ works best as a kind of amuse bouche for listeners who may not yet have immersed themselves in the Beatles, the Kinks and the aforementioned Byrds.

It feels disingenuous to criticise music that apes its heroes with such ability and love, but maybe there is something disingenuous about the album itself. Maybe we are viewing it in the wrong way - seeing it as a selection of songs to be enjoyed at gigs or on lazy Sunday afternoons. Instead, if we view it as an album of soundalikes perhaps angling for the lucrative market of TV and advertising synchronisation, it makes more sense. Through that lens, ‘Kill the Lights’ is not a marketing nightmare at all. It's intended as the marketing itself.

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