The three principal players in the British band Mojave 3 were once an outfit called Slowdive, issuing several well-received discs during the last throes of the shoegazing movement in the early ’90s. With shoegazer pop becoming a distant and — let’s face it — not entirely fond memory, Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon reassembled themselves as Mojave 3, purveyors of depressive, rootsy psychedelia in the vein of Mazzy Star.
Four records later, they’ve made another dramatic change in direction: Instead of the woozily ambient country-folk-whatever that characterized Mojave 3 Mach One, Puzzles Like You is a pop record, a cheery-sounding disc that suggests the Pernice Brothers or Beachwood Sparks or any number of perky (yes, perky) California pop anachronisms.
It’s their best, and least abstract, record yet. Stuffed with bubblegum choruses, faster time signatures, and several of the most unapologetically catchy, pure pop tracks they’ve ever committed to tape (“Big Star Baby”, “Running With Your Eyes Closed”, “Breaking The Ice”), Puzzles Like You finds the band coming as close to making an actual racket as they are ever likely to.
One look at a lyric sheet will tell you it’s also one of those records that sounds more upbeat than it actually is, but that only adds to its charm. For even the most vigorously reconstituted shoegazer band, it seems, some things never change.