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Album Review: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

2 min read

Though certainly more streamlined than their prior releases, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love is an oddly neutered release. By stripping things down, the band seem to have lost something essential: the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and the result is a record that, while certainly enjoyable, lacks the abandon that could have made it great.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-LoveIt’s no coincidence that the album’s two oddest tracks, Ur Life One Night and Stage Or Screen, are also its best. With the former, the band mix pop sensibilities and 80’s influenced bass work, keeping the proceedings throbbing and bouncing along with a delirious, euphoric sense of joy. This is dance music that’s gone just a little bit wrong, and it’s genuinely brilliant in its own bizarre, psychedelic way. Stage Or Screen is a different beast entirely, but no less effective; lead singer Ruban Nielson’s vocals drip with charismatic, poppy excess, and the instrumental breaks are deliriously, emphatically off-beat. The song doesn’t as much end as it does short itself out, with a bizarre denouement that succeeds in droves.

Given how well these two tracks work, the rest of the album almost feels tacked on. Though it would be wrong to call either The World Is Crowded or Necessary Evil dull, they pass by without leaving a trace, barely registering. Can’t Keep Checking My Phone is jaunty, but it never lives up to the initial promise of its noir influenced opening, and even at just over four minutes feels ever so slightly too long.

Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty and album closer Puzzles similarly suffer from over-length. The left turn that the latter makes just past the minute thirty mark feels artificial, and though the glam rock riffs that break out like spot fires when the piece really starts to get moving do work, the sum total is a song that never quite gets where it’s meant to be going. It’s messy, but in a distinctly considered and calculated way.

It’s not hard to see the album Unknown Mortal Orchestra wanted to make with Multi-Love; one can glimpse it through cracks in the record’s forgettable sheen. In theory, the work should impress, but in practice, it’s a pleasant distraction, nothing more, nothing less.