The Upshot: Not perfect, but the combination of the erstwhile Cousteau members (Moor’s songs and McKahey’s voice) is still a potent combination.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
When the British band Cousteau broke up after three albums in the mid-’aughties, it seemed way too soon. Admittedly, primary songwriter Davey Ray Moor had left the group after the second record, but the band still displayed enormous potential, and had two near-masterpieces under its belt already. Moor ran off to Italy for production, songwriting and solo career, and singer Liam McKahey fucked off to Australia for his own solo work. That seemed to be the end of it, a career that promised great things but was cut too short.
So imagine our delight when Moor and McKahey reunited for their first CousteauX album together since 2002. (The silent X was added to stave off potential copyright claims.) CousteauX doesn’t see the return of any of the other original members, alas, with the parts not covered by multi-instrumentalist Moor filled in by session musicians. But its distinctive rock noir sound – equal parts Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker and the softer side of Nick Cave – remains intact. Moor’s songs burrow deep into the bowels of love, gently but steadily picking at the scabs of past relationships and causing new scars in current ones. The opening pair defines his agenda, as “This Might Be Love” (note the qualifier) and “Memory is a Weapon” bury fraying connections and bruised feelings under lush melodies and arrangements.
McKahey, as always, proves Moor’s perfect interpreter, emoting like a diva when necessary, but more likely to pull back for a slower, deadlier burn. His magnificent baritone, equally capable of soaring and growling, is practically an orchestra unto itself, and McKahey’s tight control wraps it around the harshest of sentiments like a blanket straight from the dryer. As sharp with the pleading tone of “Seasons of You” and the aloof romanticism of “BURMA” as with the menacing rumble of “The Innermost Light” and the cathartic drama of “Thin Red Lines,” McKahey is a great actor given strict direction by a sympathetic director, an expert navigating the conflated extremes of light and darkness. “Fucking in Joy and Sorrow” indeed, as the final song puts it.
The record isn’t perfect – the original band is missed, particularly guitarist Robin Brown, who balances soulful crunch with seething delicacy like few others. But the combination of Moor’s songs and McKahey’s voice is still a potent combination, and CousteauX celebrates the duo rediscovering how good that feels.
DOWNLOAD: “The Innermost Light,” “Memory is a Weapon,” “BURMA”