Topshelf Records have something of a stellar track record when it comes to working with yesterday’s heroes. From reissues by Boy’s Life and Chamberlain to new records by Braid and The Jazz June, the label has impeccable taste when it comes to bringing old names to a new generation.
Mock Orange are the latest to find themselves in this enviable position, and with a two-decade career behind them, ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ represents their first album in five years and first collaboration with Topshelf.
What sets Mock Orange apart from the aforementioned acts, though, is that they have never really been away. ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ is the group’s eighth full-length album – and is as characterful and obstinate as everything they’ve done in the past.
With reference points as diverse as The New Pornographers, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Built To Spill, mewithoutYou and Neutral Milk Hotel, ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ is a journey through alt rock of the last 30 years, simultaneously timeless yet owing a debt of gratitude to a certain style and sound. And while much of it excites, enthrals and enraptures, there’s moments which infuriate and challenge.
For every ‘Be Gone’ – a wonderful slice of rhythmically-driven alt-rock with a gentle melody and easy hook, there’s a ‘Chrome Alligator’ – a wild-eyed, howling mad stomp that makes even Isaac Brock’s most unhinged moments sound restrained. Mock Orange excel at the former, yet oddly require the more challenging moments to ensure ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ doesn’t simply wash over you. It’s a difficult dichotomy to get right, but one managed expertly.
What’s most remarkable about ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ is that it was ever made (or indeed saw the light of day) at all, after a hardware failure rendered the song files inaccessible. Considering the challenges – both in making and for the listener – it’s fitting that ‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ feels like a rewarding triumph.
‘Put The Kid On The Sleepy Horse’ by Mock Orange is released on May 20th on Topshelf Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)