Some albums place themselves out of any sense of a musical spectrum. This can be done in two ways. One is to do something so different as to have no forerunners, as in Captain Beefheart or The Velvet Underground. The other, perhaps less travelled route is to have such singleness of purpose as to isolate oneself from any future musical interaction. Liam Hayes, AKA Plush, pursued the latter route in his debut album More You Becomes You. His man-and-a-piano songs are so similar to each other that it took me several listens to pinpoint where one ended and another began. That is to say, whether you would count them as actual songs. For example his two songs: “The Party I” and “The Party II” are in fact little 30-second sound bites of a chord progression. Indeed many of the songs pass by so quickly you barely notice them, and then the album is over. It doesn’t even clock past the 30 minute mark.
So it’s no surprise that this album never had much commercial success, it so successfully eludes the listener. Indeed, that was its lasting appeal to me: it was such easy listening you really needed to focus on the core of the songs’ eerie beauty. In fact the last minute and a half of the album is silence, which has a surprising effect, in that you become so lulled in the music that you don’t notice that it has ended. Another of the album’s deceptive qualities is that it seems crystallised in a nostalgic timeframe of barroom solos, which makes it so hard to believe that it was actually released in 1998.
Yet what cannot be ignored is an underlying current of loneliness between these tuneful songs. Hayes’ voice breaks in “(I Didn’t Know) I Was Asleep,” but then provides the contrast for the final driving chorus singing ‘it took me sooooo long.’ He hits falsetto too often for us not to notice vulnerability in his voice. Thus he’d perhaps be most affiliated with Alex Chilton during Big Star’sThird/Sister Lovers era, where the songs contain a harrowing beauty that can’t be felt underneath the sweet melodies.
And so this album exudes a sense of discomforting leisure (just take a look at the ominously childish cover art). Hayes sings airily about sleeping, boredom and parties, but if you can grasp his lyrics, they betray a lonelier image: “I saw the party look at me,” and we realise that this man is not singing at the party, he is singing in a corner, by himself.