A review of Clare Bowditch and The Feeding Set – The Moon Looked On

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

The Moon Looked On
Clare Bowditch and the Feeding Set
Story Baker, 2007, EMI Music

The Moon Looked On is the third CD of this ARIA award winning artist, and it takes Bowditch to new places. This is partly due to the superb kick-butt musicianship of the The Feeding Set, which seems to have a wonderful handle on Bowditch’s soft alto – blending with and extending the range. The haunting riffs by French horn and bass primarily also provide a hook in many of the songs. The band adds a rich texture at the same time as providing a much needed anchor to Bowditch’s voice, which occasionally has the tendency to meander.

The breakthrough song, which I suspect will draw many new listeners, is “When the Lights Went Down.” You can see nearly the whole video of this excellent song, along with the current tour dates, at the Clare Bowditch website. From the repeated hit of the almost painfully catchy vocal scale, this song grabs the listener and holds on tightly. The lyrics are amongst Bowditch’s best.

Just starting a song with the words “This won’t bring our dog back” is innovative and suggestive. The song then goes on to heap together strong, original images which create a complete story: “If I had a dollar now/for every time I’d hollered out your name/I’d buy us a wordmine.” Although this is one of Bowditch’s most pop oriented songs, the layering of vocals still allows for the trademark intimacy that has been gaining Bowditch fans around the world. That intimacy combines with a haunting blend of horn and bass, along with a viola crescendo that picks up the wave theme, turning this song into an evocative experience that is as poetic as it is danceable: “Underneath this cave there are a thousand crashing waves/one of them knows you.”

Similarly catchy, the fun, cheeky opening song “You Look So Good” takes the listener through a workplace crush, and allows Bowditch to use her rich voice as an instrument as it moves up and down the alto scale, giving the listener a little twist at the ends of her phrases. Sometimes she adds emphasis by speaking a word – “my, my, my.”

“Peccadilloes” really showcases both Warren Bloomer’s bass and Libby Chow’s French horn as they create an unusual sound that sticks with the listener and keeps Clare’s voice light and strong. That deep dropping hook that starts the song and repeats itself at intervals, adds a lot of depth to this piece. “Little Black Cave” and “I Love the Way You Talk” rely on the understated rhythm of The Feeding Set to keep the songs moving along, strengthening the musicality of Bowditch’s voice and adding drive to the repetition. In all of these songs, the resulting music is haunting, and grows on the listener. Where the CD falters is when the Set takes a backseat and allows Bowditch to ramble without any catchy anchors, as with “You Can Stay the Night” or “Your Other Hand”.

But all in all, The Moon Looked On shows Bowditch’s continued growth as a musician and vocalist, showcasing her superb songwriting skills, and the terrific collaboration she’s developed with The Feeding Set. She continues to grow in both the innovative quality of her work, and in the risks she’s prepared to take artistically. I can definitely see more ARIAs on the horizon.

Magdalena Ball is the author of Sleep Before Evening, The Art of Assessment, and Quark Soup.