Philosophy of Momus

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Momus' first album after leaving Creation, The Philosophy of Momus may have seemed unfocused when it was first released, but in retrospect it sets the template for most of his records during the latter half of the '90s -- a period when his music was finally issued in the U.S. and earned him a cult following. There had always been elements of pastiche in Momus' music, what with all of his stylistic left turns over the years, but those shifts had usually taken place from one album to the next. The Philosophy of Momus veers all over the musical map, appropriating bits and pieces of whatever it sees fit, with impeccable production values. The influence of Beck's Mellow Gold is apparent, though not in a purely imitative way, since its main touchstone is still synth-pop. Which makes sense, given the record's lyrical obsession with technology; many songs are about relationships affected by it, or whimsical daydreams about the increasingly digital future. In keeping with the musical atmosphere, there are plenty of other trends, too: tributes to Japanese culture (a country where he would soon find surprising pop success), trademark Momus odes to gender confusion and explicit sex, and a bit of the obsessive introspection of Timelord, among others. Far and away the best thing here is the achingly gorgeous closing track "The Sadness of Things," whose music was written by Ken Morioka of the Japanese pop group Soft Ballet. It actually points up a minor problem with the rest of the record, namely that the songwriting could have been a little hookier in general. But for the most part, The Philosophy of Momus is a return to form, setting up the musical approach and codifying many of the thematic obsessions that would dominate his subsequent work.

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