Published Jul 01, 2006Having now made five albums with Mojave 3 (and three in a former life as Slowdive), Neil Halstead has definitely settled into his skin as one of Englands premiere songwriters. With their last album Spoon & Rafter, the band took a slightly experimental turn away from their classic country-tinged folk pop sound. On Puzzles like You, Mojave 3 have taken yet another turn, this time directly into the sun with their brightest, poppiest record yet. Halsteads wonderful songs still form the base, but with the help of new producer Victor Van Vugt, the sound is bigger, denser and an absolute joy to listen to. A solid album from start to finish, everything seems to click, from the immediacy of the lead single "Breaking the Ice, down to the slower acoustic style of "Most Days. The guitars are turned up and the tempo increased on most of the songs, which might seem out of character at first, but it works perfectly. This is the sound of a band fully hitting their stride. And as summertime albums go, you cant ask for much more.
The overall sound this time is noticeably poppier compared to your previous albums. Halstead: To be honest we felt like we wanted to do something that was more fun, really. Not that making the other records wasnt fun, but we definitely wanted something more upbeat and a bit poppier. Our albums have all been slightly different, but we wanted to make a more marked change.
Were you striving for any particular sound with the new material? This record harkens back to the kind of stuff I was into when I was a teenager, which was that real indie pop, jangly C86 guitar music that had the 60s pure pop aesthetic but was also a bit fey. Our biggest problem was mixing the record. We had all these songs and everything was on tape and we couldnt get the mixes to sound good. Victor cleared out the shit and gave the songs a bit of lift where they needed it. He knew where we were coming from with the record and we were very pleased with the way it sounded.
Your songs seem to be less focused on despair and have a real positive vibe to them. Getting married completely changed my lifestyle, and I think that filtered back into the songwriting. I guess I have to wait for the big break-up record in ten years time. Fingers crossed it wont come to that! (4AD)