When it came to making the kind of sweet and effervescent guitar pop that would chime and ring at your feet, London’s Exlovers were one of a handful of bands who left tantalizing clues in the form of a smattering of singles and EP’s that dated as far back as 2008. With the arrival of their long-awaited (adjective justifiably earned) debut Moth, one wonders what exactly took so long?
Debut albums are not to be rushed into. As the saying goes, you only get one shot, but on first listen Moth sounds like the work of a band who left it a little too long. Songs have spent years stewing, been carried around like over-familiar relatives wedged into the back seat of a car, unable to be shifted until they’ve found the right home. Moth shows the potential in Exlovers, albeit overly compressed and polished with the edges smoothed down. It’s the sound of a softly-spoken and introspective band setting sights on a big, commercial sound at the cost of delicacy and nuance.
The template is set with “Starlight, Starlight” and “This Love Will Lead You On”, both falling into the category of lightest-of-lightweight-pop. They shimmer and sparkle but float past like cotton-candy clouds, too softly spun to hang onto. If you were to be picky, you could blame the production. You could question why the vocals of Peter Scott and Laurel Mills are so tightly meshed together that they become indistinguishable, same too the interlocked guitar melodies that sweetly lift you off your feet but forget to put you down. It’s a record that excels in being nice even when it wants to be ugly, as found on the bitterly pleasant “I Wish We’d Never Met”.
It’s on tracks like the Ash-meets-Isn’t-Anything-era-MBV “Blowing Kisses” and the Death Cab For Cutie dead ringer “The Ruins” where the band succeed in availing themselves of Moth‘s ethereal filters and rise above. But what could be seen as a band pulling together all their best songs regardless of how long they’ve been kicking about, or one unable to write better songs in their stead, is the decision to place past singles/EP tracks “You’re So Quiet”, “Just A Silhouette” and “You Forget So Easily” on the album.
All are calling cards of the perfect pop that Exlovers are capable of, but for fans already familiar with the band they only reveal another shortfall of Moth. If you’re going to rest on past laurels (and indeed, to use the same Stephen Street recording of “You‘re So Quiet“ from a 2009 EP), these tracks should document how far Exlovers have come, not how little they’ve travelled. Those less familiar with the band are likely to cherish Moth as being a sublime dream-pop record. Which it is, but not nearly enough as it could’ve been.