I’m going to be quite blunt with you because the context is important: I was not a fan of any of Mike and the Moonpies’ albums up to this point. On paper this is a band that should appeal to me, but every time I listened to one of their previous two albums I would listen to it a few times and then have zero desire to go back and listen to it again. Their music lacked something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But on their newest album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, the band finds that something because this is an album I’ve had on repeat since it’s surprise release.
Opening track “Cheap Silver” right away showcases the new sound of Mike and the Moonpies, as they went to Abbey Road Studios in London, England and recorded this album with the London Symphony Orchestra. Talk about a curve ball from a country band, especially from Texas. And man does it work. It’s silky smooth sound put to the lyrics that put you in mind of a dim lit, smoky bar are a perfect pair. As a fan of yacht rock, I’ve always wondered what yacht country would sound like and I think this is it. I love it and I want more!
“You Look Good in Neon” keeps the album sailing in the yacht country direction. It’s a song about a one-night love on the dance floor, where alcohol and neon lights make a man fall for a woman that if he was sober and in regular lights he wouldn’t even tell his friends about. It’s a great song, as all the little details do a great job of painting the scene in your head and I particularly like the wordplay and delivery of the line “This is your last chance/To prove me right and do me wrong.”
“Danger” is not only my favorite track on the album, but perhaps the best song the band has ever recorded. I really enjoy the storytelling in this song, as a father tells his son of his life and passes down the lessons he’s learned to help his son. There’s some great messages in it too about never giving up and fighting for something more. Most importantly it feels like it comes from a place of genuineness and sincerity and I can immediately feel this when listening to it. You can’t really fake a song like this one and get away with it.
“Young in Love” is one of the classiest sounding country songs I’ve heard in recent memory. I don’t know about you, but when I hear this song I picture a well-dressed crooner on a stage in a packed ballroom full of couples in formal wear slow dancing. That’s how classy this song feels to me. “Miss Fortune” features more fantastically smooth sounds from the band, as that 70s, Laurel Canyon sound really shines through. I really hope this sound is something the band doesn’t lose going forward because they pull it off so well.
“If You Want a Fool Around” is another excellently written song about a man reaching out to the woman he foolishly broke up with and he never got over, who has moved on and fell in love with someone else. The biggest strength of this song is of course the chorus, which is the double meaning of “if you want a fool around.” It refers both to himself, the fool who left her, and it’s also inviting her to cheat with him, despite her being happy and in love, which also makes him a fool. It’s brilliant and clever songwriting.
“Fast as Lightning” is a fun driving song that best showcases the usual sound of Mike and the Moonpies and the London Symphony Orchestra. After the moments of hard-hitting songwriting on this album, I enjoy lighter, breezier tracks like this one to mix it up. The final track “London Homesick Blues” is a fitting conclusion to the album, as the band does a great job covering this excellent Gary P. Nunn song. You can’t really go wrong with a song from him and this fits the overarching theme of the album perfectly.
Mike and the Moonpies deliver something special with Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold. It’s fantastic in both sound and songwriting. The group clearly left their comfort zone. It honors the tried and true, while delivering something that feels new too. This is a band for me that went from releasing two albums I couldn’t get into at all to releasing an album that I can’t find a single fault in. If you haven’t done so yet, go listen to this album.