THE NETHERLANDS: Moontan - Golden Earring
Updated: Dec 3, 2020
If Golden Earring were from the UK or the US they would reach legendary status and this album would be seen as one of the great rock albums of all time
I have always been someone who chooses to avoid labelling myself as a rock fan. Nonetheless, I do so with great appreciation of the genre, but rarely having felt that same indescribable buzz that disco, funk and soul can give me. My enjoyment of rock music usually comes from individual hits that would not be unknown to most of the general public. They are usually songs that I am accustomed to, having heard them numerous times. However, to come across a rock album that I am moved by and love from start to finish is more of a rarity in my life. A small selection of some the objectively held ‘greatest rock albums of all time’ from The Who’s Who’s Next and Oasis’ (What's the Story) Morning Glory? have kept me entertained all the way through, but I do not see my enjoyment of these albums as enough to bolster my credentials as a rocker. Perhaps the first time in my life in which I organically found myself engaged by an album within the genre came only recently thanks to Golden Earring.
“....the album had this magical power of bouncing so seamlessly from headbanging rock into mind-expanding psychedelia, which like many of the best jazz musicians I have ever heard, their music would simply just leave me gobsmacked by the musical talent on display.”
As soon as I pressed play at the start of Candy’s Going Bad to kick off Moontan I knew that I was at risk of having to go to hospital. This was not because I had caught an aggressive case of the rock virus but because I could feel that whiplash imposed by the music was just inevitable. It was an epiphany. What begins as a hard rock anthem turned into a prog rock masterpiece full of sublime instrumentation. The combination of these styles intrigued me, but despite the soft ending to the track I didn’t have much time to think and analyse the track is it merged into my favourite song on the album, Are You Receiving Me?. At nearly ten minutes long, I would ordinarily be sceptical about such a track but the catchy chorus alongside some epic musicianship left me rocking out so hard that I didn’t notice where the time had gone. I was sent into a trance-like state by Cesar Zuiderwijk’s percussion half way into the track. To single Zuidwerwijk out for his talents would be unfair, every musician who featured was given their chance to shine. I particularly loved the inclusion of the saxophone, played either by guest saxophonist Bertus Borgers or singer and multi-instrumentalist Barry Hay, whose solo would ordinarily make him the star of the show. However, the addition of the tremendous saxophone solo here, was just fitting for the high standard that had been set.
I started to readjust and realised that the album had this magical power of bouncing so seamlessly from headbanging rock into mind-expanding psychedelia, which like many of the best jazz musicians I have ever heard, their music would simply just leave me gobsmacked by the musical talent on display. With only four tracks left on the album I was then expecting another incredibly long, yet, swaggering spectacle like the previous tracks. However, Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock) captured my heart by removing any pretention from the previously complex compositions, and surprised me by doing exactly what it said on the tin… just rocking the f*** out! Simplistic, but utterly gratifying, Suzy Lunacy was reminiscent of the Rolling Stones in their heyday; it paints a picture of the fun to be had in the audience of one of their gigs. This is one of those albums that jumps to and fro between impressing its listener and entertaining its listener, often doing both at the same time.
Despite being their ninth studio album, it took until this one for them to have an international hit. Radar Love is almost a caricature of pop rock. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great song, but I do not see why this is the one that put the band on the map. In fact, without wishing to be contrarian, if I had to I could even make the case for it being the worst song on the album. It at moments sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to a car chase, which despite not being a criticism, it is perhaps not preferable to being an epic hard/prog rock amalgamation that would fill the dancefloor of any music venue like some of the other songs on the record. By the same token, one could also make the valid claim that even though by this point in the album Golden Earring had already shown themselves off to be the kings of musical climax, they took it to another level in this song with Radar Love. The point I am trying to make is that despite reaching lofty heights in the charts, it feels deeply unjust that the song created the perception that Golden Earring were a just one-hit wonder.
After the triumphant Radar Love, the Dutch outfit go back to playing a more one-dimensional, yet still fun, Rolling Stones-style song in Just Like Vince Taylor. This is the penultimate track before the dish out what feels like five songs for the price of one in The Vanilla Queen. Whilst I would reject the notion that the song is too cacophonous, I would admit that it is somewhat schizophrenic in its intense level of experimentation. However, the range of genres that they explore from shoegazing, that even Pink Floyd would be proud of, to big band jazz is somewhat like a rollercoaster cart that feels like has come of the rails. Despite the fact that it takes you through numerous different types of seemingly dangerous loops that don’t appear to connect to one another, you arrive safely almost bemused by having enjoyed the thrill of the crazy experience. To me, much of the album is like a choreographed. It feels like a safe-space for the musicians to show-off their respective skills, but it is far too perfect for it to have been improvised. Credit where it is due I really never believed that I could connect with rock music enough to spontaneously have come across a record in the genre that I am totally blown away by. My main take away from the album is that, it made me realise that I do love rock; it just seems that the rock that really makes me feel this love comes in the form of a weird and chaotic masterpiece.