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Monster Movie - All Lost

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Artist: Monster Movie

Album: All Lost

Label: Graveface

Review date: Nov. 5, 2006

Christian Savill, half of Monster Movie, once played guitar for shoegaze legends Slowdive. The strangest thing about his current band’s new album is that it doesn't sound like a record made by a former member of Slowdive, but like a record made by someone who was not yet born when that band broke up; someone who fell in love with Souvlaki about a year ago, and who has listened to little else in transit between the high school and the home studio ever since. Given the kind of weighty, impressionistic pop Monster Movie have typically dealt in (just imagine Savill dropping out when Slowdive became Mojave 3 because Neil Halstead was fucking around too much, then naming his new band after a Can album), one would only expect their third full-length to sound seasoned, sophisticated, older and wiser.

Whatever the reason, one is blessedly wrong to expect this. All Lost lacks sophistication, but gains a surprisingly enchanting naiveté in its absence. It sustains the melancholy and vague paranoia endemic to the post-shoegaze sound, but without any of the leaden self-consciousness; this is an album that strains toward the embarrassingly earnest and the eye-rollingly cheesy with the conviction to make it work. Even Halstead, whose songwriting has taken on a hollow peppiness in recent years, wouldn't be caught bumping the buoyant, absurdly danceable "Driving Through The Red Lights." That and frosty rocker "Return To Yesterday," the two best songs here, offer absolutely nothing new in the technical realm ("Red Lights" is actually kind of regressive in that respect), but their melody and structure are solid enough to blur the line between anachronism and timelessness.

Of course, all of this amounts to an ironically self-assured reading of the juvenile-awkwardness canon, and the sentimental excesses of the album are no less conspicuous for it: the celestial imagery tends to be overblown (as in "The Stars That Surround You" and its nearly symbiotic counterpart "Falling Into The Sun"), and Monster Movie's inveterate low-end flimsiness is never more apparent than in "Vertical Planes." The acne-and-all youthfulness of All Lost doesn't mask the uneven or gawky parts, but it frames them in a certain candid simplicity that makes them easier to pardon. "Vanishing Act" is too morose for a rock anthem and too empathetic for a goth-gloom party, but it makes a lovely wistful number by its own right; "Hope I Find The Moon" (which might actually be about Lucky Charms) could just as well come from a Disney musical, but its lonely, wide-eyed charm is difficult to deny.

All Lost is so satisfying not due to lack of composure, but to the fact that its sense of composure isn't uncompromising – that Savill and Co. don't reject clichés just because they're there. (The somewhat horrendous collage on the cover is surely testament to this, although it remains obscure exactly how.) The durable and unexpectedly diverse songwriting is what makes the album a success, but the small triumph is in managing to make the durable and unexpectedly diverse songwriting all that matters.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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