There are probably plenty of people out there who assume the Stuart Moxham story ended with the dissolution of his seminal, short-lived band Young Marble Giants, whose lone album, 1980's Colossal Youth, made U.K. post-punk history. For those benighted bystanders, pouring over Personal Best will be like catching up with a long-lost friend you haven't seen since you went to summer camp together. On his own, Moxham has assembled an impressive post-YMG discography over the years, and the first release from Moxham's own hABIT label brings together the brightest moments from those albums.
While Moxham's music evolved considerably from the stark post-punk landscapes of his old band, developing in several different directions simultaneously, a connecting thread to his past can still be discerned, and it shouldn't be difficult for YMG fans to find a way into Moxham's solo work. If there's a single predominant quality to the tracks compiled for this decades-spanning collection, it's that of a window being opened up to let a cool breeze blow across the claustrophobic climes of the Young Marble Giants era. Most of the tunes here, which include highlights from Moxham's albums as well as rarities and unreleased cuts, are amiable, melodic, poppy affairs, some of which wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Style Council or Everything But the Girl album. That said, Moxham moves through a number of styles here -- the minimalist funk of "Remember," for instance, brings to mind early Scritti Politti, while "God Knows," with Moxham's brother/old bandmate Philip on bass, evokes a bit of the old YMG mood, and the orchestral-leaning instrumental "Last Train to Barry" feels like the soundtrack to the greatest British indie flick you've never seen. If you've never followed Moxham's moves since he stopped being a Young Marble Giants many years ago, Personal Best is a great place to pick up on what you've been missing.