The flippant journalist might say that Cocos Lovers are the band that Mumford and Sons wish they were. Being a flippant journalist I definitely adhere to that sentiment. But as the leading lights of the London folk mafia shed all their early promise of being the new Waterboys in favour of being David Gray with banjo’s, folk music is in need of a new torchbearer and Cocos Lovers might just be what they have been looking for.
In this case however, the term folk music is such a limiting label, aren’t they always, as one of the defining flavours in their heady musical brew is the chimurenga vibe rendered via the guitars rather than the more traditional African instruments. And as often as not it is a Bhundu Boy back beat that you find yourself immersed in as opposed to the more expected western four four. The result is often a wonderful collision of afro-beat era Talking Heads and the more expected folk influences given the bands Kentish birthright.
Whilst the aforementioned Mumfords might be easier to sell to an audience who a generation earlier would have been eagerly lapping up Dire Straits hits, what makes Gold or Dust so great is that it requires a more discerning taste and a more artistic ear. That’s not musical snobbery, it’s just that there is more to savour, more to appreciate, in short it is not big but it is clever. It takes an alt-folk starting point and then runs ragged over world music, progressive songwriting processes, pushes over boundaries, shows a wonderful understanding of dynamics, light and shade, harmony and a host of other musical tricks and influences that normally get lost in that rush to make it…whatever that means these days.
If you like records that offer immediate pay off then this is not for you. This is a record whose attitude reminds me of the reason I became so geeky about music in the first place, why I could play the same album over and over again in the isolation of my teenage bedroom. The subtleties and musical layering found here are such that it invites you to return to it time and time again to explore it’s hidden depths as it reveals something new and rewarding each time you play it, just as music should do.