The Moon Boys

(Tumult; 2003)

By Amir Nezar | 4 October 2007

You might want to file this little number in the box that says "distinctly bizarre first impression turned into utter love." In fact, by now it's almost become a scary sort of thing for me to hear a record for the first time and love it. I'd say 4 out of 5 times the record quickly wears out its welcome and all I'm left with is a pleasing shell without a tasty core. Like a Tinder chocolate egg that comes with no toy inside. Not that I still buy them. Really.

This is...weirdly experimental, fuzzed-out, sometimes percussion-less...rock? The intro track, "Tee Hee," (what a fucking title) is an irregularly drum-beat, low-voiced, low-fi affair that immediately establishes the oddness of this record with horn manipulations and sound effects. It gives way to "Four-Armed Star," which is absent any percussion at all, but instead populated by serene angelic voices trilling slowly between notes, a bass, and a lightly plucked guitar, all smothered in feedback fuzz. And it sounds fucking beautiful. The sense that this band is so able to expertly create is a kind of urgent, but non-spastic, sound that you can almost feel begging to climb through the system. They create hooks out of nothing that wind their way into your brain and tug you back again and again to songs that seem cryptic and thick, but somehow make you feel like you have to listen to them again if only to see what struck you so strangely about them before. Of course, this creates the current cycle that I'm in, where it's simply impossible to figure out what that "what" is, and so I just listen to this record multiple times every day.

"Locked Up Tight," the third track, lets the music breath a little after its initial strangulation by means of heavy fuzz, and it somehow becomes a heartbreaking...not ballad, but something else entirely. A simple but entrancing bassline supports electronic percussion, and what seems to be an improvised, beaten up, plucked guitar. Then the bass gives up its heaviness and becomes sadly lighter (if that's possible), the guitar becomes melancholy and more beautiful than before, as the lyrics go "So you wait, and I hurry, cos I'm late, and you worry, and you smile, and you kiss me, after a while, maybe you'll miss me, cos here we go again." Then, as they turn to intimations of a coming fight, a vicious guitar begins to tear about above the soft underpinnings of the song like a late-night, furious clash. It gives up with a couple last jabs and wails, and then, in a last fury of strums, cuts out, leaving a couple bass notes left, like the final moments of a battered lover before passing out.

If all this seems disturbing, well, it sort of is, but not as much as you'd think. I personally hate records that are brilliant but utterly depressing. No one wants emotionally assaulting music 24-7 unless you're some emo-metal-lover. The kind that seem to work at Tower Records --ba-zing! But the record here, it's of a kind of spontaneous, jagged melancholy that seems so unforced, so beautifully natural, and so sonically edifying that you just can't put the mood to it. Sometimes it's black, sometimes it's hopeful, but all in all it just tends to be fucking gorgeous. Fuzz and guitars and bass and serene, moon-struck vocals never sounded so good mixed together. It's messy, it's sometimes incomprehensible, it's glorious.