ONE of the most undersung men in british rock music turns 39 today -- take a bow neil halstead!
halstead has made an unusual transition -- he first became known as leader of the shoegaze combo slowdive in the late 80s... they are sometimes compared to my bloody valentine and ride. that is a wonderful chapter in english rock, but to me he got better with his next band.
mojave 3 -- whose name was suggested by angeleno indie scholar wendy fonarow, a friend of the group and singer rachel goswell -- marked a huge step forward. here the group came up with the cornwall/english equivalent of america's alt-country movement, merging nick drake mystery with pedal-steel and a western-shirt aesthetic. several of their records are near-masterpieces, and their last, "puzzles like you," from 2006, is excellent even if it's a bit less gentle. (here is what may be my fave mo3 song, "some kinda angel"; here is the quieter "love songs on the radio.")
the most recent halstead-related release comes from his solo career -- the band is not exactly broken up but is on hiatus. that's "oh! mighty engine," maybe the mellowest thing he's done. as you can see here. it's rooted more firmly than ever in brit folk, with bert jansch as another point of departure. somehow in his music i often hear the breezy beauty of the southwest english landcape. anyway, keep up the good work, mate.
Photo credit: Brushfire Records