Mott the Hoople
Columbia PC 32871
Released: April 1974
Chart Peak: #28
Weeks Charted: 23
Has success spoiled Ian Hunter? Last year's Mott received and deserved much acclaim. It seemed a post-glitter breakthrough, debunking superstardom and demythologyzing rock: "Rock 'n' roll's a loser's game." But since then Hunter and Mott the Hoople have themselves become stars, and unfortunately they appear to have lost the detached perspective which distinguised Mott. Instead of self-awareness, The Hoople offers self-pity; instead of insight and irony, it purveys the cheap histrionics of Alice Cooper. Where Mott's "Violence" dramatized with with and understanding the thuggery of frustrated street punks, The Hoople's "Crash Street Kids" mindlessly flaunts it. Likewise, "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Through the Looking Glass" on The Hoople vulgarize the more discerning "All the Way from Memphis" and "Hymn for the Dudes" on Mott. The earlier songs exposed rock's shabby evanescence and lack of authenticity, but they also arrived at a joyful, though tempered, affirmation of the music. The Hoople's debased replicas are less perceptive as well as more dispiriting.
The deterioration of Mott's lyrics has been accompanied by a similar musical decline, accentuated by the departure of lead guitarist Mick Ralphs (his replacement, Ariel Bender, formerly of Spooky Tooth and, briefly, Stealers Wheel, is less powerful). Even more than the words, the tunes tend to be smudged copies of earlier songs. Mott repeats and exaggerates the stagey gimmicks which, in very small doses, worked well on the group's previous albums. Obtruding dialogue and heavy-handed sound effects clutter many of the tracks. A cutesy conversation, for instance, sullies the otherwise superb single, "Roll Away the Stone." In the past, Mott has insisted that it was a hard-rock band, not a theatrical troupe; but The Hoople strains toward melodrama, most disastrously in the pretentious and bathetic "Marionette" and "Through the Looking Glass."
Yet fine as these songs are, The Hoople cannot compare to its predecessors, Mott and All the Young Dudes. Let's hope Mott snaps back quickly.
- Ken Emerson, Rolling Stone, 6/20/74.
Mott the Hoople's new album begins with some quietly majestic piano chords (synthetic Rachmaninoff by way of Rosie and the Originals) while the backup gospel chorus sings ethereal "ooohhs." Then a breathtakingly sincere, unquestionably American voice intones, á la Alan Freed: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden Age of Rock-and-Roll." At that point the the piano begins the buildup from "Twist and Shout," and the whole thing segues suddenly to the full band, augmented by Little RIchard-styled saxes, pounding away as if possessed. That's jive, certainly, but it is also suspiciously like genius, and even though it's not the kind of pace Mott can sustain for any length of time, it should give you a pretty good idea of what this record is about.
Overall, it's slicker and more assured than anything they've ever done; Mott is at the top of the heap finally (as of this writing, they're about to do a week on Broadway), and if their ruminations from that lofty pinnacle come off somehow as a bit strident, especially when compared with the magnificent gut-wrenchings of their earlier "Ballad of Mott the Hoople," that's only to be expected. These boys are stars now -- though, all things considered, it hasn't gone to their heads too badly. Of course, Ian Hunter is beginning to hake himself just a wee bit too seriously; his "Marionette," for example although a brilliantly constructed and performed song, teeters ever so slightly on the edge of self-parody. Mick Ralphs' soulful guitar and plaintive vocals are sorely; his replacement is competent but faceless, and the result is more weight on Ian than I, for one, prefer. Still, this remains a band that, for all its overreaching, truly believes in rock-and-roll, and there are fewer and fewer of those around these days. Not quite the masterpiece they intended perhaps, but one of the handful of records released so far this year that really matter. Get it.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 7/74.
One of Great Britain's premier hard rock bands and pure fun congregations is back with their most ambitious project yet, and unlike many rockers who decide to add a little sophistication, the changes here work marvelously. There is, of course, the familiar chugging guitar and pure rock voice of Ian Hunter and the fine guitar of Ariel Bender. But there are also some fine female background vocals, some excellent slow songs which show a sensitivity previously lacking in the group and an all around selection of top material spaced perfectly throughout the set and designed to appeal to the taste of every rock fan. Hunter may still sound like Dylan in spots, but when all is said and done, this should be the LP recognized as Mott's coming into their own. Best cuts: "Crash Street Kids," "Born Late 58." "Through the Looking Glass," "Roll Away The Stone."
- Billboard, 1974.
"Roll Away the Stone" and maybe "Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" are classics in their neoclassical mode, which is also to say they're nothing new, and the marginal stuff is quite undifferentiated. I suspect that Ian Hunter's ego, which he deserves, is crowding out the others. And I know for sure that Ariel Bender flashes more ego than Mick Ralphs ever did, and that he deserves none of it. B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
The Hoople is the final album with Hunter. * * * *
- Leland Rucker, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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