The Joup Friday Album: R. Stevie Moore – ‘Phonography’


Down the back of the couch is the savings account you never knew about. I came to a realisation about 8 years ago that it wasn’t that music had suddenly dulled, but that I was stultified by a lot of new things I was hearing by having accrued a callous on my amiability from having studied too much. After having discovered artist after artist that the destiny of your inception dictates you miss, you realise that there’s more than enough music created before you were born to keep you busy until you die. I went through a period of hearing new bands and being able to tell exactly what they had schooled themselves on, and found it all a paltry cap-doff to incandescent predecessors before remembering instances in which respected elders had dismissed the bands that propelled my obsession as being derivative of other untouchables and realised it’s all relative and subjective and you should get on with indulging in what you love.

Which is why I find it so fascinating and agonising to find someone that manages to make their music sound at once comfortably familiar and derivative, but wholly left field and innovative. R.Stevie Moore has got a back catalogue voluminous enough to keep most casual music fans happy for an entire lifetime, and despite a steady upsurge in interest in his oeuvre over the last 10 years (out of a career of nearly 40), still doesn’t command the respect he has more than earned and deserves.

In a certain groove of the musical Multiverse, R. Stevie Moore is a name as familiar to your echo-self as any of The Beatles, only in that reality, these Beatles-of-a-lesser-John performed in obscurity, before calling it quits. Luckily, there exists in our reality the stubborn endeavours of a Bona Fide Genius, who for some reason missed the fame train. Or rather, it missed him.

The Beatles analogy is maddeningly valid, and R. Stevie Moore has written more songs of optimum quality than had all four been as prolific as an amphetamine-addled Daniel Johnston in the 1980s, for double the decade they dominated. Like Johnston, Moore is regarded as an Outsider Musician, but for no other reason than he has predominantly home-recorded his material and is dizzyingly prodigious. Moore’s mental state is not in question, though after nearly 40 years on the periphery I’m not sure how. His father Bob Moore was a respected musician in his own right, as a bass player most commonly associated with Elvis Presley & Roy Orbison – but also with Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr, Andy Williams and Quincy Jones to name but a few. Such a talent-gasm must have sent shockwaves reverberating through Papa Bob’s seminal vesicles considering R. Stevie rivals them all.

From the moment I heard ‘Melbourne’, I knew I had found what I was ultimately looking-for. Little did I know how completely nut-punched I would be with every subsequent song I heard. Every fucking song I heard on ‘Phonography’ sounded like a classic from a better dimension. ‘I’ve Begun to Fall in Love’ is just scrotum-shrinkingly good. Devastatingly incredible.

Like the prequel to ‘Caroline, No’ by Brian Wilson, (via ‘Don’t Talk, Put Your Head On My Shoulder’ maybe), it is so innocent, so beautiful. so DOOMED. I can’t help but contort my face with every chord-change to represent the particular feeling it evokes, as it meanders so unexpectedly into each incongruous, but perfect chord. Such a weird uncertainty… his voice seems to be so defiant, and sure of how righteous his love is for Carolynn, as it fights against the lugubrious, mournful-sounding chords, that seem to simultaneously echo, and negate the feelings that formed its lyrics.

Shortly after discovering his music I embarked upon a flight. It had been a while since I’d done so. It’s not natural, and anyone in their right mind would have to get their mental doormen in-place to stave-off the panicky disaster-bastards from bleeding-in, hooting and gnawing at the console, their shit-filled pants spilling out undetected among the stench of the apocalyptic in-flight meals. My particular mental-employees would lullaby his songs through my mind, and I found I was afraid to die only because, at that point – I had just three of his albums.

The feeling I was enveloped-by, in the midst of discovering his music, was nothing less than love itself. My girlfriend caught us. One day while puttin’ up the groceries, she turned around to see a most peculiar look on my face. The expression spoke of a man who has indulged in pocket-Billiards to such an extent, that his face betrays his secret tournament to the watching world. I was so enraptured by the choice of chord change on ‘What’s The Point?!!’, she thought I’d friction-singed my intimates.

So selfish am I, that upon discovering music that I so abruptly crumble-to, my instinct is to keep it to myself, but in this case it became impossible. That selfish desire fell-away the more blank faces I encountered when spreading the word. If you stumbled across a cure for cancer, could you keep it to yourself? R. Stevie Moore might not cure cancer (at least, he’s not been widely regarded-enough yet to be put to the scientific test, or exposed to a large enough demographic), but if you had the misfortune to contract-it having been lucky enough to have discovered him – you’ve had a good run.

Champion his albums: Save R. Stevie!

Grez, shepherd us into next weekend.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: R. Stevie Moore – ‘Phonography’
  1. Shawn C Baker

    Shawn C Baker Reply

    I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoy your writing. And I’d never heard R. Stevie Moore before. Made it through the first few tracks here before work called me away again, however I can see how Melbourne snagged you.

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