With six albums released over as many years, Ringo Deathstarr are clearly intent on showing no signs of slowing down.
Pure Mood feels like an assured release on the ever-reliable Club AC30 label – in many ways, much more so than 2013’s God’s Dream. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it, however, somewhat depends on which side of the shoegaze/grunge fence you stand, for there’s an assortment of both genres present here.
“Dream Again” kicks things off sounding like a track which could happily appear alongside anything on Scar by Lush. Ethereal guitars, dreamy vocals and layered harmonies are all present and correct – in fact, it’s a near-perfect introduction.
Against this backdrop of solitude, however, “Heavy Metal Suicide” comes crashing in like a freight train careering off the rails. It sounds like what would have happened if Nirvana had gone to the studio via a record store where they’d picked up a copy of My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything.
There's no getting around how LOUD this record is. Often albums have elements of both light and shade, but here there's an overwhelming amount of angst on display. With it comes volume.
When the angst is contained, it works spectacularly, as is the case on “Stare At The Sun” - when the chorus comes crashing in, the song develops a life all of its own. Similarly, “Big Bopper” is an absolutely crucial turn, the defining moment of the album. If anybody wants to know what Ringo Deathstarr are all about, simply play it to them and sit with a massive smile on your face.
There are moments where the ghost of My Bloody Valentine – or at least the ‘tremelo-guitar’ effect mastered so well by Kevin Shields – is very definitely lurking over the controls. That’s not to say Ringo Deathstarr are simply trading on previous bands’ glories – in fact, at the risk of offending many MBV fans, I for one have never attributed Loveless with the near-mythical status of an almost untouchable masterpiece which many people seem to apply to said album. That’s a discussion for another time, but what I’ve enjoyed about the modern shoegaze bands (neatly pigeonholed with the ‘nu-gaze’ tag) is that they’ve taken the essence of the sound, brought it up-to-date and ensured that the vocals and melody are pushed to the front rather than being hidden so far back in the mix that you can barely make them out.
The one lingering doubt which troubles me slightly with Pure Mood takes us back to where we originally started – will fans of ethereal shoegaze music find it too loud, too grungy? Will grunge fans find it not heavy enough as a whole? I’ve come to the conclusion that on balance it works pretty well, even if you do have to adjust the volume control here and there along the way. It’s not perfect – there are moments, such as during "Old Again", where my concentration has wavered - but when it hits the spot ("Big Bopper", "Guilt", "Acid Tongue"), it’s an absolute tour-de-force.