16 October 2010

Catching up with The Moons and LCD Soundsystem

Time, time, time … you can never have enough of it! Trying the inevitable fight against time to catch up with past releases can sometimes be daunting! But as the year draws to a close, and the number of releases is slowing down (or at least the number of releases that are catching my attention is slowing down), I think it is time to make the time and write about some bands that I have not been able to write about. Again, I cannot stress more that not having written about these two bands is a reflection of my lack of time and not of the bands! Quite the opposite, one is a promising nascent band from Northampton and the other a New York City veteran band, one influenced by the 60s and 90s and the other by the 70s and 80s, but both are extremely witty, catchy, and have solid songwriting chops. (As I know that people may have heard these albums, I am not going to belabor this post, but I am going to put my two cents into the mix.) Enjoy!

The Moons: "Life On Earth" (above)
LCD Soundsystem: "This Is Happening" (below)

The Moons: “Life On Earth”

Hailing from Northampton, UK, The Moons released their full-length debut, “Life on Earth,” earlier this year (15 March 2010 in the UK and the USA as a download, 6 April 2010 as a physical import in the USA). Part of a revival of broody 60s music, the album may use that era as a blueprint, but remains jovial and fun. Full of quirky vocal arrangements and solid melodies, with simple but ingenious guitar arrangements, “Life on Earth” is not the typical 60s revival album. Though occasionally there are songs (like “Torn Between The Two”) that could easily have been written in a world where The Beatles and The Doors inhabited, the interesting moments of the album is when the 60s collides into the 90s Britpop tradition. And that is the thing about The Moons: their musical reference is slightly larger than most of the 60s revival, and just after one good listen I was left wondering what else do these guys have up their sleeves.

Opening with “Don’t Go Changin’,” the entire concept of the albums is laid out for you in one song: fun, poppy, devoid of overused indie clichés and tropes, and immensely alluring. The third track, the single “Let It Go,” is a testament to solid craftsmanship. At once it cannot escape its 60s blueprint or its Britpop feel, but unlike so much revival it does not sound dated in anyway. Quite the opposite, “Let It Go” sounds fresh and vibrant, structured but yet somehow zany. Another track to really pay close attention to is “How Long,” which slows the tempo down and starts to ponder, but never wallows. And this is usually a hard feat; the moment the tempo is slowed down, most songs open the door for wallowing. Instead here, the song borders on a claming ethereal feel; not the kind of ethereal, falling through the sky kind of feel, but rather that sort of feeling when you reminisce and can’t help but to smile, even if the memories are sad.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the nicest guitar work comes in “Everyday Heroes.” Okay, you can make the argument that other tracks have more intrigue or ingenious arrangements, but there isn’t a song on the album that works better than this one, in term of the guitar arrangements. It is definitely that one song where all the other components are often pushed into the background of your mind’s ear, as you enjoy the visceral power of the guitars. Lastly, the band goes for an epic ending with “Last Night On Earth” – and I love epic endings! This is the moment when you think, “What else does this band have up their sleeves?” Just like “Don’t Go Changin”,” all of the bag of tricks is in this song, but it is the one track that really takes a step way from the poppy feel of the rest of the album, in favor of more visceral power. But, again, it is not a gloomy, irresistible undertow kind of visceral power, but that sort of release of futility and again a smile on your face. (Note, I did not make much of the Paul Weller connection, because though of course we all love him, that should not be the reason you really give into this amazing album.)

Track Listing:
1. Don’t Go Changin’
2. Chinese Whispers
3. Let It Go
4. Torn Between The Two
5. Nightmare Day
6. Promise Not to Tell
7. How Long
8. The Ragman
9. Everyday Heroes
10. Lost Soul
11. Wondering
12. Last Night On Earth

Keep up with The Moons at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Let It Go” and a live performance on BBC of “Promise Not To Tell” from their Youtube Channel: themoonsofficial.

LCD Soundsystem: “This Is Happening”

When you think New York City and dance punk, Yeah Yeah Yeahs usually come to mind; I guess I could accept that, though I really think that it is LCD Soundsystem that should come to mind. And I know that the term “dance punk” gets thrown around quite a bit, to the point that it has become adulterated and obtuse, so indulge me a moment here. To me, dance punk bands have two things in common: David Bowie and Brain Eno. Combining a punk mentality to dance music, that is challenging the very notion of the “dance” genres (from house to disco), these bands incorporate dance beats with elements of music that are not normally indigenous to dance music, but rather to the post-punk tradition that Bowie and Eno influenced. And if any band has this down-packed, it is LCD Soundsystem, and their new album, “This Is Happening” (17 May 2010 in the UK, 18 May 2010 in the USA), proves that.

With one of the coolest openings of the year, “Dance Yrself Clean” opens (and closes) with a near comical electropop arrangement, the song is full of mocking lyrics like “Talking like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean. Present company expect it…” A bit over three minutes into the song, the beat drops, the soundscape radically changes, and the dancing shoes come on. This song is of epic proportion, but then again so are six of the other eight songs on the album, spanning anywhere between nearly six-minutes to nearly nine-and-three-quarters. “Drunk Girls,” the only short song on the album, is a punky-electro number; the lyrics are completely tongue-in-cheek (“Drunk girls... Just ‘cause I’m shallow doesn’t mean that I’m heartless. Drunk girls... Just ‘cause I’m heartless doesn’t mean that I’m mean. Drunk boys... Sometimes love gives us too many options. Drunk girls... Just ‘cause you’re hungry doesn’t mean that you’re lean”) and musically the one song that is the round peg surrounded by squares. It is the obvious single, though it does not represent the rest of the album, and it is that reason why I can say that I love its use as a single. I hate when bands cut other songs down to be a lead single just to represent the album; this is the kind of risk that more bands should be willing to take.

As for the rest of the album, LCD Soundsystem proves that you do not have to follow current sonic platitudes. Well, they never have been followers; they are more comfortable setting the trend, not blindly giving into it. What I really like about the album is that each of the songs is really developed. And though many of the tracks share common underpinnings, they do not share the same approach. Whether it is the influx of EBM in “One Touch” or the Bowie-esque space adventure sounding “I Can Change,” each song luxuriates in its own soundscape, yet flowing into one another with ease. And if there is one album this year that really breathes New York City (sleek but risqué, gorgeous but not classically so, intelligent but not needlessly heady, sexy but not frivolous), LCD Soundsystem’s “This Is Happening” is it.

Track Listing:
1. Dance Yrself Clean
2. Drunk Girls
3. One Touch
4. All I Want
5. I Can Change
6. You Wanted a Hit
7. Pow Pow
8. Somebody’s Calling Me
9. Home
10. Throw, iTunes bonus track
11. Oh You (Christmas Blues), iTunes bonus track

Keep up with LCD Soundsystem at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Drunk Girls” from the parlophone YouTube Channel.

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