Thought provoking words about the struggles of life, over a sparse intimate soundtrack
A quote from Cerys Matthews is front and centre of all Moreno’s publicity. “An offshoot of Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond.” Fortunately, this is a pretty accurate summing up of the sound on ‘The Year of the Rat.’ This is his fourth release, although he also has ten books of poetry to his name. As a native of Gibraltar, he is bilingual in Spanish and English, and his lyrics, which are mostly poems set to music, are coloured by elements of both languages. Third song into the album ‘Feel Like Dancing’ is the first where the music lives up to words, with a bigger arrangement than the mostly acoustic opening songs. This may be the reason it has been selected as the single. ‘Sellotape My Heart’ has a novel way of looking at despairing of the world.
The music is quite sparse on most of the songs and that makes the album sound a bit one dimensional at times. The use of other singers on quite a number of songs to support Moreno’s voice, which really does sound like a mix of Cohen and Diamond, suggests that he and his producers understand that they need to throw a bit of light and shade on to the singing to put the emphasis on the lyrics. Some more arrangements like ‘Feel Like Dancing’ or the organ led ‘When The City Wakes Up’ would have reflected his poetry more effectively.
A song that creeps up on you after a few plays is ‘All That We Have.’ “This all that we have, won’t you treat it baby like we never gonna part. These cobwebs are like mould inside since the day you said you’d give it all away for some plays on Spotify.” The subtleties of the words are highlighted by the trumpet solo that sits in the background of the song like someone sounding the retreat on a battlefield. A few more touches like that would have turned this from a good into a great album.
And it is the words that you would listen to this album for. Lines like “I feel like dancing, alone in my room, here I am the genius of mirrors and cells,” or “They tore down the bridge and made England concede to terror and greed” from the title song. His press is perceptive about his appeal saying – “What characterises his work is the blending of languages and cultures. This stems primarily from his bilingualism.” Quoting influences like Italian singer and poet Fabrizio De Andre and Georges Brassens, who has been called the French Leonard Cohen aligns Moreno with some serious competition. His poetry is certainly worthy of the comparison. Some of the music could just do with a little more life to make this as enjoyable a musical experience as it is lyrical one.