MJ Hibbett & the Validators

Forest Moon of Enderby

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It's little surprise that a band as persistently dedicated to a 21st century take on 20th century-inspired U.K. indie rock would have generated a slew of songs via its various singles -- or that there would eventually be not only one compilation of them but two. Thus MJ Hibbett & the Validators' Forest Moon of Enderby, a sequel of sorts to Warriors of Nanpantan covering nearly a decade's worth of B-sides and extra tracks from the group, as ever led in warm and winning fashion by Hibbett himself. His ear for converting personal experiences into lyrics often both humorous and heartfelt in equal measure, matched with the group's overall knack for quick-paced and instantly enjoyable music, recurs pretty well track for track; if a few songs show why they didn't show up on the full albums, it's often just by a matter of degree. Hibbett's slice-of-life approach often understandably focuses on his chosen field, thus the quick rush and slam of "The Merchant Ivory Punks" targeting the type of people hanging around Buckingham Palace hoping to pose for tourists, the ridiculously funny "Other Bands' Setlists," featuring some distinctly terrible examples of same, and "Let the Weird Band Win," cheering on the random types that end up in local battles of the bands. (Then there's the amazing mock epic -- or is it even mock? -- "The Drummer's Lament," based on the Validators' own Tim Pattison's e-mailed thoughts on his profession's lot.) Perhaps the pinnacle of the collection is "The Other Rush Hour," a detailed exploration of figures off to early work on mass transit and the societal assumptions at play that, all the more importantly, is a great singalong. Keyboards, strings, and more flesh out the overall arrangements (the violin adds a lovely kick to one of the collection's most heartfelt numbers, "Leave My Brother Alone"), and the band's evident happy love of pop's straightforward joys never wavers throughout, although applied in a form seen as retrograde by some. Perhaps the kicker to it all is the fact that a further 23 songs are included as MP3 bonus tracks, Hibbett's Superstore, with a slew of compilation appearances, unreleased songs, and more.

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