On Messy Century, their full-length debut for Mute, Liverpool-based Mountaineers seem to fall asleep at the wheel while listening to English folk music. Their lorry drifts lazily off the road, caroming into the Beatles tradition, motoring through a field of psychedelic poppies, and finally crashing through the wall of a corner shop full of secondhand mixers and monstrous extension chords. Hearing the jaunty melodies of "UK Theatre" and "I Gotta Sing," you get the feeling that mountaineering principals Ceri James, Tomas Kelar, and Alex Germains would take such a wayward trip in stride, waking up from behind the crushed steering column rubbing a bump and smiling with bemused detachment. Century definitely has its disjointed moments and half-formed ideas ("Belgique Limb"), but all the electronic weirdness and obtuse lyricisms don't prevent its more focused sections from succeeding. (The perpetually aimless Beta Band might learn from this approach.) "All My Life"'s pastoral harmonies suggest American classic rock folded into Brit-pop; they exist over a whirring, clicking collection of sputtering electronics that frame the song's simple, folksy acoustic guitar. Some of this experimentation recalls the glitch and poptronica worlds, especially "Sewing," with its processed vocals and bed of backward sounds, or "Bom Bom," where an odd menagerie of instruments and robot voices coalesce around a monotone bassline and a patchwork of Avalanches-style percussion sampling. It's like hearing your kitchen appliances come to life as a dance troupe, their multiple LEDs dancing like on the facets of a disco ball. The Mountaineers strike bizarro dance floor gold again with "Apart From This." It might be a shameless riff on French electronica, but it's fun to hear them try and inject the form with a 1970s soul bridge. Messy Century never outruns its influences, but that's okay, because it's clear the Mountaineers don't want to. Instead, they happily finger paint with technology and tradition to create electroganic folk modernism.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus