Friday, 10 May 2013
The Pocket Gods - In Search of the Divine
Have The Pocket Gods grown up? Yes, I know, it sounds like a daft question to ask of a band who've been knocking around for a good few years now, but a daft question that their new album - In Search of the Divine - encourages nonetheless, because a band I've loved for so long for their almost innocent, sometimes whimsical indie pop have produced an album that comes across as arch, knowing and - dare I say it - even polished.
It's not that the themes are any different. We still get the much-loved science fiction references permeating many of the titles and lyrics: you may have caught me playing 'JFK UFO' at the end of my April Dandelion Radio show, and that's in familiar company here with 'Bermuda Rectangular' and a new version of 'Someone Else Is On Our Moon', which closes the album as if to provider a reminder that, if what you've just heard has taken us off in enticing new directions, this remains, distinctly, a Pocket Gods record.
Elsewhere, though, there's a considerable broadening of the artistic palette without any compromising of quality. The plaintive 'My Next High' finds Mark Lee in reflective mood and the track opens with an audacious harmonica solo, as if to provide a tongue-in-cheek Dylan-esque nod that, you then think after listening to the song for a few minutes, might not be so tongue-in-cheek after all. As if to play with our preconceptions still further, 'Exorcist 3 Blues' - which, incidentally, you can hear in my May show - comes across all blues-like while occupying more familiar Pocket Gods territory of those murky corners of popular culture inhabited by the movie sequel. And 'Sense' has what sounds like a string section, for God's sake: whether synthesized or not I'm not qualified to detect, but it scarcely matters either way because, whatever it is, it works. As can certainly be said for In Search of the Divine as a whole.
What we have here is a band making a curious move forward, while thankfully not sacrificing any of the elements that made them so great in the first place. Although I've liked everything else they've put out in between, it's no coincidence that this is coming across as the freshest Pocket Gods album since the glorious Lo Fi Sci Fi came out five years ago. If a tendency to dabble with the wistfully ironic and the benignly unthinkable is going to give us results like this, the next five years of this thankfully prolific outfit might prove, remarkably, to be even more thrilling.