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Music Review: Mike Moss – Cold World Plastic Dream

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Cold World Plastic Dream is the debut album of British singer/songwriter Mike Moss. And while the title taken from a line in the album’s opening track, “It’s Time,” and even the song itself with its echoes of classic David Bowie might have suggested to listeners that they were in for some kind of far out experimental musical experience, they would have been mistaken. There is some very appealing music on this album, but it is neither far out nor experimental. Moss’s website calls him “an anomaly in the modern world of manufactured pop” with a healthy disrespect for musical genres and market-fixations,” but while he may be writing lyrics without regard for what he considers current trends, the music he has produced doesn’t seem all that far from the mainstream.

If this album is any indication, Moss has a way with a pop melody that captures the imagination. This is a man who can write the kind of tune that will stick with you. Whether it’s the pulsating rhythms of “Drop in the Ocean” or the sweetly lyrical “Only Lies,” it is the hook that grabs you. There isn’t a song, of the 10 original compositions on the album, that doesn’t have an absolutely infectious hook, the kind of hook that could well land a song on many a pop hit list.

If he moves out of the mainstream, it is in his lyrics. He is not writing the conventional pop love song. He is after bigger game. There are times when his aim may not be all that true, but he writes with an emotional sincerity that is reinforced by his intense vocals. Too often he seems to lose himself in abstractions rather than looking for the apt image. So you get a song like “The Higher You Climb,” which settles for intellectual generalities rather than charged imagery. “Morning Call,” on the other hand, is an example of his effective use of the precise image. “Be the Way,” a song that has a piano line that sounds a lot like Billy Joel, builds its theme effectively through the image, showing rather than telling. Lyrics like these are Moss at his most effective poetically.

Perhaps the most interesting songs on the album are “Drifter,” a song about a man searching, a man who “can’t seem to find myself in me,” and “Emotion Machine.” In some sense, they are fitting metaphors for this debut album. These are some very good songs by a talented artist, but they are the songs of an artist who still seems to be searching for his own voice. In “Emotion Machine” he points out that the singer is “just a work in progress.” It’s time, he tells us in the opening track, to “make a connection,” but it’s also time to “break a connection.” It’s time for the drifter to find his voice, and if he feels he hasn’t quite found it yet, this is an album that shows him looking in the right direction.

There are 12 tracks on the CD: 10 different songs by Moss, either on his own, or with a collaborator. Two tracks are unplugged bonus versions of “Be the Way” and “Morning Call.” Moss produced the album, but the liner notes say nothing about any other musicians who may have worked with him on it.

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About Jack Goodstein