Happy 15th Anniversary to Moloko’s fourth and final studio album Statues, originally released March 3, 2003.
The Moloko story had started simply enough. A seasoned music industry producer-instrumentalist meets an aspiring lyricist-singer with a quicker wit than his at a party. They're attracted to each other. In fact, one of the two individuals' chat-up lines from that night is later tapped as the title of their debut record. And so Moloko was born.
Recording three albums for the Echo label—Do You Like My Tight Sweater? (1995), I Am Not a Doctor (1998), and Things to Make and Do (2000)—Mark Brydon and Róisín Murphy's wacky, acerbic electro-pop-funk hybrids won over tastemakers and fans. Still, that greater glory (commercially) always seemed to be just out of Moloko's grasp. Their third affair, Things to Make and Do, sought to actively rectify that.
The inclusion of a remixed version of I Am Not a Doctor's “Sing It Back” led audiences to snatch up copies of Things to Make and Do, driving it to platinum success. Those same record buyers got a fantastical greeting with the rest of the album's music. Aligned with their staple electronic aesthetics, Moloko indulged in glam rock and majestic uptempo ballads making it their most sundry collection at the time. The balladic quotient served as one of several influences for Moloko's fourth and final LP, Statues.
Brydon's abilities as a producer and musician are at complete attention on Statues. Groovy electronica of various tempos and frequencies (“Cannot Contain This,” “Blow X Blow”) writhe and pump alongside squelchy, seductive disco soul (“I Want You”). “Forever More,” one part modern dance-pop, one part '60s R&B swagger, challenges the ear initially. Eventually, one ends up being charmed into moving in time with the rhythms of “Forever More,” before they realize they're dancing.
“Statues” and “Over and Over” are the orchestral set pieces that showcase a new sort of refinement for the duo. True, that same adjective could be ascribed to certain parts of Things to Make and Do, yet there's a newfound human quality underneath the album's exterior.
Statues is a pop record with the fever of heartbreak in its blood. Formed from the raw separation of Brydon and Murphy as a couple, each composition expresses intimacy, vulnerability and regret. Consider “Familiar Feeling,” which speaks to the fragile intricacies of love, especially when faced with its own emotional mortality. Musically, it's constructed from a curiously operatic mix of folk, soul, classical, Latin and Irish elements. This soupçon is set to the heart-quickening gait of the song’s lyrics. Murphy's vivid voice bridges this perfervid lyrical and musical temperament. It's incredible to think that Murphy, who began her recording career with no formal training, has graduated to such a powerful range on Statues. Her growth as a singer is crystal clear.
As Moloko soldiered into the promotional duties for Statues, it was obvious that Brydon and Murphy's private relationship wasn't going to improve. Interestingly though, their artistic connection was stronger than ever. Issued on March 3, 2003, Statues met with demure sales, but the reviews were enthusiastic. Three singles were elected to represent the long player, “Familiar Feeling,” “Forever More” and “Cannot Contain This—“Familiar Feeling” and “Forever More” became the hits. Moloko put this engaging album on the road with a tour that same year and under better circumstances, only the sky would've been the limit for Brydon and Murphy. It wasn't in the cards for the pair, Moloko disbanded after the live shows concluded.
Brydon retreated back to studio session work, Murphy on the other hand began her ascent to indie-pop goddess stature. Murphy produced four solo records, each more thrilling, if confounding, than the last on a host of labels, major and minor—Ruby Blue (2005), Overpowered (2007), Hairless Toys (2015), and Take Her Up to Monto (2016).
The legacy of Moloko continues to fly just under the radar, their four records succinct alternative dance-pop statements accurately capturing the mid-to-end point of one decade and the beginning of another. Statues is the masterpiece of that stated quartet. The album fearlessly explored the finite nature of love, its study of the emotion humanizing and disciplining Moloko's peculiar musicality without losing its individuality.