The Hoople

Mott The Hoople

Columbia, 1974

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


One of the measures of Mott The Hoople’s historical impact on rock and roll must be this: even when they were in the process of self-destructing -- some would argue especially then -- they were tremendously influential.  Evidence of this is strewn across the length and breadth of the band’s final studio album, the sequel to 1973’s triumphant Mott, the inevitably-named The Hoople.

By 1974 only three of the band’s five founding members -- singer/songwriter/pianist Ian Hunter, bassist Overend Watts and drummer Dale (Buffin) Griffin -- remained.  Keyboardist Verden Allen had quit after All The Young Dudes, and before the band had finished touring the Mott album, guitarist/songwriter Mick Ralphs had exited to co-found Bad Company.

In their place the remaining trio brought in first keyboard player Morgan Fisher and then ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor, who was prevailed upon to employ the eminently cooler stage name Ariel Bender.  Both were solid, Bender being in fact quite an aggressive and flashy player, but neither had either the standing or the inclination to fill the vital role Ralphs had played within the band as a second songwriter and creative foil to Hunter.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The music found on The Hoople is for the most part superb, but Ralphs is clearly missed.  With the weight of the entire band on his shoulders, Hunter composes eight of the nine songs here, even throwing in a post-Mott outtake – with the departed Ralphs’ rhythm guitar track preserved – in the closing “Roll Away The Stone.”  The results are entertaining in the way only an out-of-control rock and roll band can be -- full of a sort of sloppy bravado and self-indulgence that makes for a rollicking fun first listen, followed by diminishing returns after that.

Still, the album is a memorable one, with the spittle-flecked, anarchic fury of “Crash Street Kidds” pre-empting punk by at least a year and the “theater of the mind” interludes of the merciless “Marionette” embellishing one of the most vicious anti-music industry screeds ever put on record.  More standard Mott fare like the Jerry Lee Lewis-influenced “The Golden Age of Rock’N’Roll” and the dizzying Dylan-on-Ritalin narrative of “Alice” feels familiar but still packs a hefty punch.

Bassist Watts takes his first lead vocal on the lightweight but catchy “Born Late ’58,” and the similarly fluffy “Pearl’N’Roy (England)” nonetheless entertains thanks to Hunter’s natural showmanship and the counterpointing of Bender’s sharp guitar work with a full horn section and expansive harmonies.

The Hoople album wasn’t quite the end of Mott The Hoople – that would come in a flurry of chaos, personnel shifts and recriminations surrounding the tour the group embarked on in support of the subsequent Live LP and “Saturday Gigs” single release -- but it was the band’s final studio album, adding extra poignancy to the paired closers here, the self-lacerating ballad “Through The Looking Glass” and the nostalgic rocker “Roll Away The Stone.”  For a band seemingly forever perched on the edge of oblivion, Mott sure knew how to party on the way down.

Rating: B+

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