Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The long-awaited return of Cousteau

After a 15-year break, singer Liam McKahey and songwriter/instrumentalist Davey Ray Moor of London-based hitmakers Cousteau have reformed as CousteauX. The album of the same name is set for worldwide digital release by Silent X Recordings on Sept. 15. The physical CD follows on Sept. 22 and 140-gram vinyl LP on Sept. 29.

A gold-selling act in Europe, Cousteau is best remembered by Stateside audiences for “The Last Good Day of the Year” (2001), a pop hit that saw the band touring the U.S. and performing on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.

Since its debut, “The Last Good Day of the Year” has featured in a major TV campaign by Nissan, on the soundtracks of Happily Ever After starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and “South Kensington” with Rupert Everett, and in documentaries and TV programs around the world. It became a staple on NPR and enjoyed widespread success at AAA Radio.

An Irishman from Cork (McKahey) and an Australian born in Beirut (Moor) are the creative team behind CousteauX. Their friendship was kindled when they crossed paths at various squats and parties in the 1990s. Liam’s richly evocative voice paired with Moor’s songs has seen CousteauX’s cinematic noir stylings favorably compared to David Bowie, Scott Walker, Burt Bacharach and Nick Cave.

McKahey and Moor were always the two principals in the band, and they are the sole remaining members of the earlier incarnation of Cousteau. Moor says of the decade-long split, “Ten years apart led us to appreciate the synergy we have. Sometimes musicians find a unique match in another. We’re one singer-songwriter in the bodies of two people. Because Cousteau were pre-aged and kind of timeless, the music still sounds today as it did yesterday. We’ve only become stranger and stronger now that we’re older.”

For their return to both stage and studio, McKahey and Moor have added an “X” to the end of their former name, which they ask listeners to consider “as a kiss ... and a scar.” The “X” is silent so the pronunciation of the band’s name remains the same.

“Burma,” the first single from CousteauX, provides a captivating introduction to the new album. Opening with a plaintive trumpet, McKahey’s voice finds perfect accompaniment in the piano, upright bass, marimba and string arrangement. The song was inspired by the WWII acronym ‘B.U.R.M.A.,’ which stood for “Be Upstairs Ready My Angel,” a popular expression written by British soldiers on letters sent to lovers. The haunting video has rich pop culture antecedents in Ambrose Bierce’s acclaimed short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (adapted into a memorable 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone) and New Order’s celebrated war requiem “Love Vigilantes.”

“The Innermost Light” is based on an occult concept which originated in India and was later re-purposed by Aleister Crowley to describe what some might call the ‘soul.’ It is about light and its companion, shadow; a lustful tale of yearning and a life’s mission to find that other soul with a harmonious innermost light.

Carl BarĂ¢t of The Libertines co-wrote and performed on “The Innermost Light,” one of the first songs recorded during the sessions. The accompanying video was shot in Canberra, Australia by Graham Gall.

CousteauX will be touring the UK in the fall with a U.S. tour planned for spring 2018.

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