CousteauX – Stray Gods review

19 07 2021

Cousteau were a London based band active from 1999 to 2005, releasing three studio albums and known for the songs The Last Good Day of The Year and Mesmer.

Core Cousteau members Liam McKahey and Davey Ray Moor returned as CousteauX (it’s a silent X apparently!) in 2016 and after releasing their first album under the CousteauX name in 2017, are back in 2021 with a new album, Stray Gods.

As I mentioned in my review of 2017’s CousteauX album, this incarnation strays far from the lighter, more easy listening style of their early 90s music. This is often uneasy listening, and the experience is all the more stronger for it.

Cheap Perfume sets the template for much of the album. Stuttering guitar lines and a steady, mid-paced rhythm give way to a delicious chorus, with “that” voice in full flow. There is a real edge to latter day music from Liam and Davey, with dirty, sleazy guitar riffs often in evidence.

Love The Sinner has an inventively percussive pace, with duelling guitar and keyboard riffs below the deepest, simmering baritone, topped by a multi-layered chorus that Bowie would have been proud of. The demons win the battle in this song.

On first hearing Karen Don’t Be Sad, I was not aware it was a cover of a song written by Miley Cyrus, Wayne Coyne & Steven Drozd. I thought it was the band’s take on the recent “Karen” phenomenon. Or maybe a tribute to the great Karen Carpenter (there are strong Carpenter vibes on this song). But nope, got that wrong on both counts, though there is a slight possibility that my ears could be deceiving me, as I think there have been some slight lyric changes to reflect current events, so maybe my first instinct was true. I guess I will find out when I have the pressed CD in my possession.

The essence of the earlier band incarnation runs through Karen Don’t Be Sad , the most gentle, delicate piece on the album. Its a doozy. As is the 60s flavoured Yesterday Eyes, which simply oozes Monte Carlo spy thriller. The smooth, measured arrangement graced with a dreamy chorus that seeps into your soul. One of my song of the year contenders.

We head towards the half-way mark with the scene setting Bloom Overture that flows into When The Bloom Has Left The Rose, with Liam’s most emotional vocal performance on the album. At this point on Stray Gods, the weather is changing and a storm is clearly approaching. When The Bloom Has Left The Rose is stripped back, with heavy use of atmospherics and mood to convey the deep emotion.

The band take a rare excursion to a 70s sound with So Long Marianne, which has some subtle country leanings, and don’t shoot me, it reminds me a little of prime 70s Neil Diamond, even though it is in fact a Leonard Cohen song. I’m a sucker for this sort of rich arrangement, with Rhodes piano, slide guitar and soulful backing vocals, so this would always be an obvious favourite for me.

Praying For Rain is pure Americana, with bar-room piano solos, and a blues shuffle driving one of the album’s darkest pieces. None of the tracks feel rushed or cluttered on Stray Gods, there is always plenty of space for the songs to breathe and for the lyrics to do their work. This Thing Won’t Fly is a case in point, with a rich chorus escaping from the leisurely verse.

Electrical Storms In Berlin is unlike anything Liam and Davey have released before. The pace is funereal, and the crackling, atmospheric arrangement feels like the film score to a dark noir movie. Its a career highlight for the duo.

“Grabs of news and ballyhoo
drone on and on
dabs of truth ‘bout me and you
so long wrong and gone”

Hush Money is the heaviest track on Stray Gods, both musically and lyrically. Guitars and drums are the main ingredients on this track, with a blues swagger rarely heard from the duo.

The clouds clear for Stray Gods finale, with the gentle, tender torch-song In The Meantime. Stinging ride cymbals and deep synth strings sit atop the piano and double bass of the shifting moods that populate this album closer.

I loved the band’s return in 2017, but Stray Gods feels like a much more rounded, rich and complete piece of work, and is my favourite of the two duo albums. The mood and pace of the album twists and turns, with so much more variety shown by Liam and Davey this time around.

I say this everytime I review one of their album’s, and they always seem to ignore me, but I hope this is a run of new music. Don’t go splitting up on us again CousteauX!!!

Cheap Perfume
Love The Sinner
Karen Don’t Be Sad
Yesterday Eyes
Bloom Overture
When The Bloom Has Left The Rose
So Long Marianne
Praying For Rain
This Thing Won’t Fly
Electrical Storms In Berlin
Hush Money
In The Meantime

Released August 20, 2021

Voice: Liam McKahey
Songs & Production: Davey Ray Moor

Buy CousteauX Stray Gods (CD or download) from bandcamp

Buy CousteauX Stray Gods (CD or download) from Amazon


Buy the first CousteauX album

Buy the first CousteauX album, on CD, from Amazon

Buy the first CousteauX album, on vinyl, from Amazon


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