Moon Pix

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Moon Pix
Cat Power-Moon Pix (album cover).jpg
Studio album by Cat Power
Released September 22, 1998
Recorded November 7, 1996
January 1998
Studio Sing Sing Studio in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Genre Slowcore[1]
Length 46:19
Label Matador
Producer Matt Voigt
Cat Power chronology
What Would the Community Think
(1996)What Would the Community Think1996
Moon Pix
(1998)
The Covers Record
(2000)The Covers Record2000

Moon Pix is the fourth album by Cat Power, the stage name and eponymous band of American singer-songwriter, Chan Marshall. It was released in September 1998 on Matador Records.

Much of the album was written in a single night, following a hallucinatory nightmare Marshall experienced while staying at a farmhouse in South Carolina. Prior to that, Marshall had intended to retire from music. The album was recorded in Melbourne, Australia with Mick Turner and Jim White, of the Australian instrumental band Dirty Three, on guitar and drums, respectively.

Composition[edit]

Several songs on Moon Pix— "No Sense," "Say," "Metal Heart," "You May Know Him" and "Cross Bones Style"— were written "in one deranged night," following a hallucinatory nightmare Marshall had in the fall of 1997, while alone in the South Carolina farmhouse she shared with her then-boyfriend, Bill Callahan. "I got woken up by someone in the field behind my house in South Carolina," she explained. "The earth started shaking, and dark spirits were smashing up against every window of my house. I woke up and I had my kitten next to me...and I started praying to God to help me...So I just ran and got my guitar because I was trying to distract myself. I had to turn on the lights and sing to God. I got a tape recorder and recorded the next sixty minutes. And I played these long changes, into six different songs. That's where I got the record." [2]

In a 2013 interview with Rob Hughes of The Daily Telegraph, Marshall again recounted the experience:

"I was by myself for three months in the country, surrounded by fields. One morning I had a vision, woke up and could feel something beyond the trees outside my window. Then I heard a voice: ‘Chan, come and meet me outside and all the past will be forgotten.’ I remember sitting up in bed and saying ‘No!’ And when I said that, I felt as if something was coming fast, straight from under the earth, these dark spirits. I know that sounds completely insane. So I sprung out of bed and rushed into every room [mimes shutting windows in a panic]. Then they came, thousands of them, all up against the kitchen window. They were clear, black as night, trying to get into my soul. That’s when I grabbed my acoustic guitar. I thought that if people found my body, I needed to leave a tape. So I just played the songs that became Moon Pix. It was horrifying.”[3]

About two days before Marshall's nightmare, she had received a call from a friend who had challenged her to record something new. "He was like, 'Dude, what are you doing? You’re fucking up. You could be really doing something, and you’re just not putting anything in the universe, you’re just a loser,'" Marshall recalled, in a 2012 interview with Caroline McCloskey of The Fader. "I was so pissed off."[4] After the nightmare, Marshall went to New York City unsuccessfully seeking help, which included talking to priests. The afternoon that Marshall returned from New York, she received a call that her friend had died. Later that night, she heard that another friend of hers had died the same day. "So that’s when I woke up," Marshall recalled. "I was like, you know what? What am I doing?"[5] With the cassette of the songs recorded the night of her episode still in her possession, Marshall decided to fax Turner and White, whose band the Dirty Three she had played shows with, and asked if they wanted to record. She asked her record label, Matador, for money to travel to Australia, and spent three months there "hanging out and having a great time" until being told by White that Turner would be leaving Australia in two days, at which point they entered the studio to record the album.[6]

"Stepping into Australia was stepping into something more positive and triumphant as a young woman," Marshall explained in a 2018 Guardian article. "I was, on purpose, choosing a path out of solitude. I found joy I had never felt; some part of the freedom I got there."[7]

According to Marshall, some of Moon Pix was also inspired by two months she spent alone in South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania, an experience that she said "dented" her. "Cross Bones Style" was written about two children she met in Africa who slept in trees at night after their parents were killed.[8]

The song "Colors and the Kids" was written in the studio, and the lyric "Yellow hair, you are such a funny bear" refers to several people, including Marshall's nephew, a former bandmate, and American singer/ songwriter Will Oldham, whom Marshall drank with in Australia, and who she says reminded her of the South.[9]

Recording[edit]

Most of Moon Pix was recorded at Sing Sing Studio in Melbourne, Australia by house engineer Matt Voigt. In a 2006 interview with Mess+Noise, Voigt revealed that work on the album started the day after New Year's in 1998, with Marshall arriving with her guitar and asking Voigt how he wanted to set up for recording. She sang and played guitar at the same time, with a small guitar amplifier in one room, and Marshall singing into a microphone in another room.

The album's opener, "American Flag," features a slowed-down reversed drum sample from the 1986 Beastie Boys song, "Paul Revere." According to Voigt, Marshall appeared with a copy of the song on album in her bag, and requested a "backwards drum beat," which Marshall then recorded on top of.[10] The sample is uncredited on Moon Pix.

Voigt recalls that Marshall was "a lovely lady. Very emotional. We would do takes and she'd just start crying in the middle of a take. And she'd say 'Stop, stop, I'm sorry, I'm sorry' and I'm like "'It sounded great!'" [11]

According to Voigt, the Dirty Three members joined the studio most likely on the second day. White played drums over vocals and guitar already recorded by Marshall, and all three musicians recorded two songs live with bassist Andrew Entsch on double bass.[11] The album also features Belinda Woods on flute.

"Peking Saint" and "You May Know Him" were recorded by Mick Turner at Scuzz Studios. "Back of your Head" was recorded for the VPRO Radio 5 show, De Avonden.

Release[edit]

No singles were released for Moon Pix, although a music video directed by Brett Vapnek was released for "Cross Bones Style."

As of 2003, the album has sold 63,000 copies in the United States alone, according to Nielsen SoundScan.[12]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[13]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[14]
Houston Chronicle4/5 stars[15]
The List4/5 stars[16]
NME8/10[17]
Pitchfork7.4/10[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[19]
Spin5/5 stars[20]
The Village VoiceC+[21]

Moon Pix has been called Cat Power's "magnum opus" and "a true masterpiece of emotional shading and compositional clarity." [11] Critics cited it as evidence of Marshall's maturation as a songwriter, with Heather Phares of AllMusic writing that "Moon Pix continues Chan Marshall's transformation from an indie rock Cassandra into a reflective, accomplished singer/songwriter."[13] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone called it "even stronger" than her previous album, What Would the Community Think (1996), and wrote that "it still holds up as one of the Nineties great singer/songwriter triumphs."[19]

Lisa Lagace of NPR called Moon Pix "a note-perfect album that turns inward, filled with songs that express what it means to be deeply, inexplicably melancholy," and wrote that "it will continue to work its magic, healing metal hearts, for generations to come."[22]

Looking back at the album in 2018, Marshall told The Guardian, "It makes me feel good and very humbled, how many people have told me Moon Pix was important to them for personal reasons. It’s beautiful...To me Moon Pix was just so elementary in its simplicity. I never really felt it was that good but people say, 'It’s your best record.'" Marshall revealed that "it feels like I’m alive today because of being able to write those songs. Instead of darkness, instead of other choices humans make, I chose to write songs. Moon Pix was my salvation as a very mixed-up young person. And suddenly I see that."[23]

In 2018, Marshall reunited with Turner and White to perform a show celebrating the album's 20th anniversary, as part of Vivid LIVE 2018, at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.[24]

The album is referenced in Jeffrey Brown's 2005 graphic novel, Aeiou: An Easy Intimacy, as part of the 'Soundtrack Side A'.

The album's cover was reenacted by the Shins on their 2001 music video for "New Slang," along with album covers by Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, the Minutemen, Squirrel Bait, Sonic Youth and Slint.

Accolades[edit]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Pitchfork US The 50 Best Albums of 1998[25] 2018 6

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Chan Marshall, unless noted.

No.TitleLength
1."American Flag"3:30
2."He Turns Down"5:39
3."No Sense"4:50
4."Say"3:24
5."Metal Heart"4:02
6."Back of Your Head"3:43
7."Moonshiner" (traditional)4:50
8."You May Know Him"2:46
9."Colors and the Kids"6:35
10."Cross Bones Style"4:32
11."Peking Saint"2:28
Total length:46:19

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Terich, Jeff. "10 Essential Slowcore Albums". Treblezine. Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  2. ^ Goodman, Elizabeth (2009). Cat Power: A Good Woman. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-307-39636-5.
  3. ^ Hughes, Rob (2013-06-25). "Glastonbury 2013: Cat Power interview – swooning songs and psychotic episodes". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-09-01.
  4. ^ McCloskey, Caroline (4 September 2012). "Cat Power: Light Years" (81). Fader. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  5. ^ McCloskey, Caroline (4 September 2012). "Cat Power: Light Years" (81). Fader. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  6. ^ McCloskey, Caroline (4 September 2012). "Cat Power: Light Years" (81). Fader. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  7. ^ Hennessy, Kate (28 May 2018). "Cat Power on Moon Pix: 'I'm alive today because of those songs'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  8. ^ Hennessy, Kate (28 May 2018). "Cat Power on Moon Pix: 'I'm alive today because of those songs'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  9. ^ Hennessy, Kate (28 May 2018). "Cat Power on Moon Pix: 'I'm alive today because of those songs'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Recording Cat Power : Mess+Noise". Messandnoise.com. 2006-03-25. Retrieved 2011-10-07.
  11. ^ a b c "Recording Cat Power : Mess+Noise". Messandnoise.com. 2006-03-25. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  12. ^ "Breaking & Entering". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. March 30, 2003. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  13. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Moon Pix – Cat Power". AllMusic. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  15. ^ Vaziri, Aidin (October 11, 1998). "Cat Power's 'Moon' Light as a Whisper". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  16. ^ Trew, Jonathan (September 24, 1998). "Cat Power: Moon Pix (Matador)". The List (343): 45. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  17. ^ Bailey, Stuart (September 16, 1998). "Cat Power – Moon Pix". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  18. ^ Schreiber, Ryan. "Cat Power: Moon Pix". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on October 3, 2000. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (April 10, 2010). "Cat Power: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
  20. ^ Maerz, Melissa (December 2006). "Discography: Cat Power". Spin. 22 (12): 74. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  21. ^ Christgau, Robert (December 1, 1998). "Consumer Guide: Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  22. ^ Lagace, Lisa (6 November 2017). "Shocking Omissions: Cat Power, 'Moon Pix'". NPR. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  23. ^ Hennessy, Kate (28 May 2018). "Cat Power on Moon Pix: 'I'm alive today because of those songs'". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  24. ^ Wicks, Amanda (20 March 2018). "Cat Power Announces Moon Pix 20th Anniversary Concert". Pitchfork. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  25. ^ "The 50 Best Albums of 1998". Retrieved June 22, 2013.