Moon Tooth Deal Out Freakdom
on Their First EP
Playing in a band is about playing with other bands. No disrespect meant to those who make inspiring and totally consequential desktop music from the comfort of home and never touch a stage, but if you want to play out, you will be playing with other bands. In my experience, Other Bands can be the highlight of the show, developing a kind of synergy and camaraderie where the sense of The Show transcends your own set and becomes about the total package presented to the audience. But because of myriad reasons besides just the music (rudeness, posturing, lateness, lingering sets, etc), Other Bands can put a damper on the evening.
Discussing what puts Other Bands on either side of this divide with my bandmate we came up with a simple distinction: certain bands Play and other bands don't.
Play for our purposes being a sublime concept. Play being where a band shuts off their individualities, their egos, and gets lost in the great transcendental wash that is music. Bands that Play perform as one unit. They are conjurers, antennas of frequencies beyond the mortal realm, sonic explorers who bring back aural panacea for the tribe. For these bands, the music in and of itself trumps all other considerations. They play what they play because they have to. There's no choice. It's what their internal creative radio picks up on and they've been blessed with the gift of finding others who can tune in with them.
When my band first met guitarist Nick Lee and drummer Ray Marte, it was quite clear that these guys know how to Play.
When setting up shows, genre distinctions and carefully fashioned personal tastes tend to melt away. There's a practicality in this ("we need to fill this bill!"), but there's something else too. The experience of music today is hyper analytic. One can comb through the near entirety of musical output and download and listen at a whim, and dismiss upon the very next whim. When you are put before a band on stage, other dimensions appear: Vibration. Motion. Presence. More senses are involved; at least more senses are dedicated to the experience. How often are our ears the only thing consuming a song while we scroll Facebook, eat a sandwich, and wonder if this shirt on the floor is clean by the old smell test? Live music tends to humble the critic. This is not just an mp3, these are human beings performing magical feats. Muscles are extorting and minds are melding in order to tame and wrangle the power of electricity and vibration into something that mimics human emotion.
Nick & Ray write music that is specifically geared towards this visceral world, and when I first encountered their trio called Exemption in Kingston, NY my senses were jarred out of their comfort zone, and I enjoyed the shit out of it. Exemption played to a sparsely populated dive bar as if their lives depended on it, and we fell into the show-share bandship deal straight away. Too soon afterwards, bassist/vocalist Tom Moran decided to part ways. Nick and Ray were left to regroup and Moon Tooth was formed.
Whether to think of Moon Tooth as an extension of Exemption is a moot point though two question do remain important: is the major-label-ready musical kinship that Nick and Ray share still intact and what do the new members add to the mix?
In regards to the first question: without a doubt, yes. And with a four song EP being merely a wink and a promise, one can only expect that the best is yet to come. The songs here are of a particular and peculiar type of magic
The real beauty of the album is its inability to fit in any particular genre hole. On a very surface level there is a pop-rock sheen to the music. It's hard to put one's finger on, but there's something in the mix that's akin to the likes of Queens of the Stone Age or even Foo Fighters, yet simultaneously it's immediately obvious that underneath the hood of that familiar strain, the gears are all jumbled and scrambled and churning in strange and fantastic ways. Between time signatures that pull in uneasy ways on your biorhythm to super-human guitar feats that lie on the very edge of sanity, the listener is lured in by the familiar only to be scrambled by the churning tides that lie underneath. And in that chaos, is an aggression that makes this endeavor clearly metal-oriented and invokes the likes of Torche, Mastodon, and Baroness.
Still, the primary ethos of Moon Tooth is clearly infinite, indefinite, indifferent Energy. This record is chock full of piss and vinegar and there is no rest for these wicked young lads. At all times their music screams, "now now now now." And it's this element I was most worried about translating via the studio. How could such alive music be frozen in place? And this is where, to arrive at the second question, John and Vinny shine and really make Moon Tooth a unique entity.
John's energy during live shows can barely be contained by the room in which they are playing, and often times it just literally can't be contained by the stage. As crawls through the crowd and worms his way back towards the stage, John delivers the objective correlative for Moon Tooth. As if to say, "Seriously. This music is fucking crazy." So, he delivers on the visceral front of the live show, but amazingly enough, it's there on the record too. It's in his voice and that translation is an incredibly important and impressive feat. And similarly, on the stage and on the record, if there's an anchor in all of this chaos, Vinny's bass work is it. He manages to somehow keep up with the madness of the guitar and drums but simultaneously keep everything from totally boiling over.
So to bring it all back around, the real magic of this EP is that Moon Tooth have created an album, maybe even their very own genre, which manages to bridge the gap of live show and at-home-listen. This EP manages to reach out of your speakers and grip your shoulders and shake vigorously whilst screaming, "Your LIFE is fucking ENDING! Why are you just sitting here?!? Go to a SHOW! Start a fucking BAND! Run a race. Climb a mountain. Make out. Paint the most beautiful picture. Dance. Sing. Scream. Do it now because someday you never will again so get off your ass and GO FUCKING PLAY!!!