John Moreland “Visitor”

Thirty Tigers, 2024

John Moreland goes off grid and comes up with an album which is soul searching as he struggles to make sense of an always on line society

After the bells and whistles (synths to be more precise) which populated his previous album ‘Birds In The Ceiling’, John Moreland has returned to his rootsier roots on ‘Visitor’, an album he recorded at home, playing most of the instruments himself in an attempt he says to make “A natural sounding folk rock album.

Released digitally with no pre publicity (a physical release is due later this month) the album was recorded during a period last year when Moreland went “off-grid.” He took, he says, “a year-long break from touring, in an attempt to regain my sanity, I stopped using a smart phone for 6 months, and wrote this album.” It’s notable that Moreland mentions the digital world several times in his lyrics here, be it the “digital mirage of home/ Candy apples painted chrome” mentioned on the opening song or “There’s a world of beauty, there’s a world of shit. There’s a world at the end of my fingertip. A digital balm for an analog bruise. Which world do I choose?” on ‘Silver Sliver’. Away from such distractions, Moreland had time to contemplate the world around him, a world in which he says on the closing title song he considers himself a visitor, numbed by a constant barrage of doom and gloom.

The album opens with a gentle finger picked guitar on ‘The Future Is Coming’, a song which comes across as pessimistic with Moreland lamenting that “We just choose the lie that feels the best.” A Harvest styled country rock sound permeates ‘Gentle Violence’ which maintains a sense of foreboding with those who follow flags and false idols increasing the potential for war and it’s one of those false idols (not named) who feature on ‘One Man Holds The World Hostage’, an acute portrait of populist leaders who portray strength but are, in fact, insecure and needy. The end result for most of us is, as Moreland sings, “Why do I keep feeling like a soldier in a holy war that I never signed up for.”

After a short instrumental break, Moreland returns to the fray with a couple of less pointed songs. ‘The More You Say, The Less It Means‘ is beautifully played with gorgeous rippling guitars while ‘Blue Dream Carolina’ is another superb Neil Young like country rock song with some excellent harmonica playing. ‘Ain’t Much I Can Do about It’ actually rocks out with quite a joyous mood and ‘No Time’, the simplest arrangement here, is tender and vulnerable as Moreland strips the song back emotionally. Equally stripped back is ‘Silver Sliver’, a song which seems to find Moreland reflecting on the effect the modern digital world has had on his own health. He closes the album with the title song which describes his sense of alienation from that world. Here the pessimism which visited the opening songs is tinged with the possibility of hope as Moreland sings “I will not be your puppet or your payment. Your easy entertainment, for I’ve made amends to me.”

For all his doubts and soul searching, Moreland’s time out didn’t find his muse deserting him and on ‘Visitor’ he has delivered a striking and thoughtful album.

8/10
8/10

About Paul Kerr 438 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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