According to search results various, the bluebird has been a ‘harbinger of happiness’ for thousands of years. Said bird reminds us not to lose hope in the face of an adversary and not to let go of the joy even in the direst times. Lovely stuff.
For me, Mojave 3’s ‘Bluebird of Happiness’ is one of those magic songs. You know; one of those songs that connects on a different level to other tunes, automatically fires of an emotional response for reasons you may never fully understand and, frankly, probably don’t need to.
“Who are Mojave 3?” I
hear imagine you asking. After the critical spin and uppercut that felled the shoegaze scene* the ridiculously wonderful Slowdive were dropped by Creation just a week after the release of their fifth album, Pygmalion** -also ridiculously wonderful. Members Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon switched direction a little, following the more ambient leanings Halstead’s writing was already taking and throwing dream pop with a bit of folk and country rock into the mix. By the time of the band’s fourth album Spoon and Rafter in 2003 they’d added keyboard player Alan Forrester and ex-Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe and were leaning more into dream pop/alt-country elements with a sound not a million miles away from Mercury Rev.
Neil Halstead – as borne out by his solo work as well as Slowdive and Mojave 3 – is a songwriter who places emphasis on arrangements and layers. Spoon and Rafter is full of examples of just this approach but no song more so than the 9:15 opus ‘Bluebird of Happiness’ with its multiple parts gently transitioning into each other, Halstead’s vocals remaining calm and measured against a mesmerising backdrop that at turns rises to guitar-driven chorus and falls back to piano lead reflective chill.
Anyway, back to that magic stuff… From the second I hear those opening ambient sounds (there are some birds in there, some whispered vocals) and piano notes I feel a sense of calm wash over me and when those nine minutes and fifteen seconds are up I feel lighter and at peace, if only for a little while. I don’t think you could ask for more from a song, really.
Mojave 3 would release one further album – 2006’s Puzzles Like You – before dropping into hiatus for a couple of years ahead of a touring comeback in 2011 though any music they may have recorded after that has yet to see the light of day. Halstead and Goswell both kept busy with solo work until Slowdive reunited in 2014 with a new album following in 2017*** and another currently in the works.
* Fuck you, Britpop.
**Spun at least once a week on my turntable
***Also, you’ve guessed it, ridiculously wonderful.