Museum Of Love

Life Of Mammals (Skint Records)

Contact Patrick Tilley, Ahmad Asani about Museum Of Love

If you’ve ever imagined what a band influenced by Scott Walker, John Cale, Roxy Music, Jonathan Richman, DAF, dub, Robert Wyatt, post-punk and Krautrock might sound like, then you might finally have your answer. They’re called Museum Of Love and they’ve made what may well be 2021’s boldest album, Life Of Mammals. There’s house music in there, too,” adds Pat Mahoney, singer and co-writer, although maybe not on the surface. I felt like our first album was more in that world, but with this record, we’ve ended up making a weird rock LP.”

Weird, perhaps, but also enormous knockabout fun, at times approaching their song craft with the bombast of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the outlook of the Marx brothers and matched with the production knowledge of a Basic Channel record. A bewitching combination that rewards repeat listens, it’s doubtful anyone will release a more compelling and beguiling album this year.

Museum Of Love is Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany. Mahoney is best known as the drummer in all-conquering NYC band LCD Soundsystem, while Dennis got his studio chops as an intern and assistant engineer at Plantain Studios in the West Village at a time when DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy was in permanent residence and a whole scene was emerging from Manhattan. In those early days,” says Dennis, it was just friends coming in and out, occasionally doing projects, so you would meet a lot of people. Pat was in and out and that’s how we got to know each other. It just became a little bit of a family there for a couple years.”

While the pair were friends it was somewhat later when it coalesced into something more fixed. I got asked to do a remix for Battles, and I had just enough engineering chops to get myself into trouble,” says Pat, and so I asked Dennis to partner with me. We made that, and then we were like, ‘Let’s keep going. Let’s start a band,’” But rather than continue in his role as rhythmic anchorman, Mahoney decided on a move. When we started working together, I was like, ‘I think I want to sing,” and only started writing songs then. I’m still learning how to do it, and I approach it almost like a visual artist rather than, like, ‘I’m a singer-songwriter guy.’

It’s worth noting that both Dennis and Pat both come from an art background originally, Mahoney is a sculptor, while Dennis paints, and there’s a strong visual element in the Museum Of Love sound. Indeed the whole creative process feels more like an art project than an attempt at knocking Taylor Swift off her perch. How do you take an idea that’s not necessarily a song idea and turn it into a song has been a big part of our process. So we’ll grab a whiteboard and listen to things and just jot lines down. We often start a record from just having a bunch of titles. So, I have a little list of when something strikes me, I’ll title a song and then look for a narrative to fit the title.”

Lyrics on the album are so delightfully elliptical that there are a thousand valid interpretations. Oblique Strategies is something we’ve used as well,” adds Dennis, about Eno/Schmidt creative aids. It’s an interesting way to build a song by breaking down an idea, if that makes sense. It’s more exciting than building up from a melody line.” Lest anyone thinks this an entirely serious enterprise, there’s some humour in this approach, too. We reserve the right to be very pretentious. We find some of these lines very funny, and then to deliver them with this total commitment and very dramatically and seriously is even funnier.”

Museum Of Love’s visual approach works in other ways, too, such as their self-made video for ‘The Who’s Who Of Why Cares’ from their debut, in which Pat’s sculpts a McNany head and then proceeds to melt it down into a chocolatey gloop, like a DIY leftfield take on Zappa’s ‘City Of Tiny Lights’ promo. The album, too, has that widescreen feel.

Recording and producing the latest album has been a dogged process, with the pair working in short bursts between Mahoney’s LCD touring commitments. I would come home for three weeks and we’d go into the studio and try and get something done. Once a month, for a year, we were doing a little bit at a time.” Although the record was largely made by Pat and Dennis, it features legendary avant-sax player Peter Gordon, from the Love Of Life Orchestra on album opener ‘Your Nails Have Grown’, with regular contributors like Matt Shaw. It also benefitted from a mix by LCD honcho James Murphy. We did a mix that we were shopping around, and James said he wanted to take a crack at it. He had time to sort stuff out. I really love the mix that we did, but he was in his own studio, so he just took the time to scrub it clean and he did a lovely job.”

In these days of pandemics, lockdowns and limited access to culture, we should all be grateful that while cinemas lay empty, theatres are boarded up and nightclubs have been laid to waste, there’s one museum still open for business. No social distancing required.