There's a good reason why the Move's eponymous 1968 debut album sounds like the work of two or three different bands -- actually, befitting a band with multiple lead singers, there's more than one reason. First, there's that lead singer conundrum. Carl Wayne was the group's frontman, but Roy Wood wrote the band's original tunes and sometimes took the lead, and when the group covered a rock & roll class, they could have rhythm guitarist Trevor Burton sing (as they did on Eddie Cochran's "Weekend") or drummer Bev Bevan (as they did on the Coasters' "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart"). Such ever-changing leads can lend excitement but it can also lend confusion, especially when the group enthusiastically mixes up Who-inspired art pop with three-chord rock & roll oldies and more than a hint of British eccentricity. Add to that, the album had a long, convoluted birth of 14 months, a long span of time in pop music, but it was an eternity in the mid-'60s, when styles and sounds were changing monthly. The Move were releasing singles during this time so they weren't absent from the scene, but they did happen to be set upon a course of cutting singles when their peers were crafting album-length epics, something that separated them from the pack, making them seem eccentric...and the Move needed no help in seeming eccentric. In an age filled with outsized originals, the Move may have been the most peculiar, not quite fitting into any particular scene or sound. They rivaled the Who in their almost violent power, but were almost entirely devoid of Mod style, despite the "Ace" nickname of bassist Chris Kefford. They were as defiantly British as the Kinks, but during 1967 and 1968 they were more closely tied to psychedelia than the Davies brothers, producing intensely colorful records like "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree" and "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," songs that owed a heavy debt to the Beatles. Indeed, the Move were arguably at the forefront of the second wave of the British Invasion, building upon the bright, exuberant sound of 1964 and 1965 and lacking any rooting in the jazz and blues that fueled the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and Manfred Mann, among countless others.
The Move sounded so new that their 1968 debut still sounds unusual, ping-ponging between restless, kaleidoscopic pop and almost campy salutes to early rock & roll, punctuated by the occasional foray into the English countryside and, with the closing "Cherry Blossom Clinic," psychic nightmare. Much of this oddity can be ascribed to Roy Wood, the only member to write, but the Move were certainly a collective, sounding just as off-kilter and distinctive on the aforementioned oldies covers and their version of Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma" as they do on their originals. But it's Wood's originals -- ranging from the stately, tightly-buttoned "Kilroy Was Here" to the carnivalesque "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree"; from the gentle, precious "Mist on a Monday Morning" to the perfect pop of "Fire Brigade" and "Flowers in the Rain" -- that give The Move its heady rush of melody and tangible sonic textures. This is vivid, imaginative music -- almost too vivid, really, as there are so many ideas that it doesn't quite hold together as a complete LP, a curse of the prolonged sessions behind the album, surely. Nevertheless, art-pop albums are always better when there are too many ideas instead of too few, and The Move is one of the first to prove that axiom true.