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Muzz - Muzz (Album Review)

Wednesday, 10 June 2020 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Driely S.

The use of the term ‘supergroup’ is too common these days. The members of Cream, widely considered to be the band that spawned the label, had pedigree behind them. But that standard has slipped in the intervening 50 years, and it’s now thrown at any side project that pulls together a few familiar faces.

While it’s probably a stretch of the imagination to apply the tag to Muzz, their members have more of a claim to the title than most. But, with that said, the casual listener will likely only be familiar with frontman Paul Banks of Interpol.

Rounding out the trio are drummer Matt Barrick (of Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Walkmen) and Josh Kaufman, a highly esteemed producer who has worked with the War on Drugs and the National, among others. Hacks they are not, but their public presence is considerably more modest than Banks’s.

Banks and Kaufman have been friends since their teens, but only recently found time to join forces. Barrick completed the brotherhood far later after crossing their musical paths in the New York indie scene. With their careers rather diverse, it was a shared love of Leonard Cohen, the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Bob Dylan that helped them find a sweet spot where their interests met.

The result, though, recalls the work of none of the above influences. Neither does it nod its head in the direction of their day jobs. Perhaps this is because each member has had a similar level of input, with Banks referring to the band as “a three-headed monster”.

But it’s the subject matter that really knits it all together: depression, and its various stages. Musical minimalism is often used to great effect to complement this thematic strain, as on the superb opener Bad Feeling. It’s a gorgeous, delicate cut where spine-tingling organ chords recall Talk Talk, and Mark Hollis’s more experimental work is also a touchstone on the laid back Evergreen. 

Also at the top of the album the darker, menacing feel of the single Red Western Sky impresses alongside the excellent acoustic-fronted Everything Like It Used To Be, where Banks’s distinctive jangly guitars elevate the song to great heights. The second half, although boasting its own highlights like the unpredictable Knuckleduster or the nonchalant How Many Days, is much calmer in comparison. It’s almost like it’s running on fumes after the euphoria of what’s gone before.

Pristine production, outstanding percussion and Banks’s inimitable voice gel exceedingly well most of the time on this self-titled debut. Interpol fans will likely be surprised, or even a little disappointed, but that’s not a knock on the record’s quality. Much like the members of the group, it’s just different. Arriving at a time when a lot of listeners can relate to mental health issues, it’s almost tailor made for the moment.


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