I know you all look up to me as a living God, an embodiment of all that humanity could, should and would be if only everyone had been born with my boundless talent, looks and application*, but I do have to admit that I have faults.  Well, a fault.  I get a bit obsessive and need-to-have-it-now-y.  Hence, not very good at keeping things prioritized and in perspective.  Hence, buying a frightening amount of albums last year.  Hence, my moment of temptation** at lunchtime today, a bit like that fellow in the desert – oh you know the one, hipster beard, 40 days and nights, happened not very long AD, yeah that’s the guy.

Moon Duo Circles 03

I accidentally found myself in the mighty Probe Records in Liverpool at lunchtime, having had a brisk 15-minute walk to get there, leafing through that week’s new releases when I stumbled across Moon Duo Shadow Of The Sun.

I had no idea they were releasing a new LP, although I did know they were playing a Liverpool date in May.  The devil hovered into my peripheral vision.

I liked the cover … it came with a free 7″.  The devil stood squarely before me now, I glanced away.

It was on very limited RED VINYL!  The devil was looking uncannily like Christina Hendricks to me now, squeezed into a ‘I Love Welsh Men T-shirt’ giving me the ol’ come on.

Now I’m supposed to be having a fallow month, this month, but to continue the deer metaphor I was, umm, metaphorically in rut by this point.  What should I do?

a) Buy new LP and gig ticket

b) Buy either – become the vinyl hermit /the sweaty dancer

c) Step away from the vinyl and exit stage left.

So of course I chose d) Step away from the vinyl and go listen to the two perfectly good Moon Duo LPs I already have.  Having already written about Mazes when I saw the band live in 2013, I was left with their 2013 LP, Circles and I’ve been living it for a couple of days now.

Moon Duo Circles 04

Now for any uninitiated out there Moon Duo are the greatly bearded Wooden Shjips guitarist Ripley Johnson, who plays the best-looking Airstream guitar I have ever seen and his wife Sanae Yamada, on keys and beats.  Their sound can be described loosely as Suicide meets, umm, Wooden Shjips, really; the latter bands’ more organic backing stripped away and replaced by a harder driving robo-synth beat, chrome not oak.   I actually prefer Moon Duo to Ripley’s day job these days, they’re meaner and when I saw them their relentless music picked me up, made me dance like a mad thing then just dropped me down from a great height into the cold night air to stagger home, sweaty and happy.

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Circles starts with a track that just typifies how great Moon Duo can be, ‘Sleepwalker’.  Driving synth riff? check; Dreamlike vocals? check; Crazy aerobic-love-cult video starring 1537 fave maverick Canadian genius King Khan with a side order of bouncing bosoms? CHECK!!!

I love this track, it really creates an atmosphere of close, paranoiac, monotony – in a really great way, when a slightly different chord change hits at 4:18 it becomes a jaw-dropping moment, everything’s the same but different for ever; especially on your fourth straight repeat.  I love music that is capable of twisting your head like that, it’s the ultimate legal high.

Moon Duo Circles 01

That’s the template in a nutshell, but there are more than enough local variations to get on without it sounding remotely samey.  I love ‘Dance Pt.3’ during which Sanae deploys synths not heard on vinyl since Sisters of Mercy mighty Floodland – true story.  Particular favourites of mine are the almost ZZ Top circa-Eliminator thrust of ‘I Been Gone’, which is illuminated by some lovely clean guitar lines from Ripley, the slow brooding JAMC-like track ‘Sparks’ and the gonzo ‘Free Action’.  Last track ‘Rolling Out’ has a heavier bass sound and sees an almost bluesy feel coaxed out of the synths, together with a transcendent guitar freak-out.

Apparently some savages out there no longer have our monarch on their coins! Pah!
Apparently some savages out there no longer have our monarch on their coins! Pah!

I hope I haven’t made Moon Duo sound like lots of great bits from other bands cobbled together to hitch a ride on the originals’ power.  This really isn’t the case at all, probably more of a fault on the part of my descriptive vocabulary.  Moon Duo really do have a strong sound all their own and it acts like a reverse prism, it takes all the disparate influences and refracts them back at the listener as a beam of blindingly pure white light.

The original artwork genuinely does feature a Welsh rugby supporter's badge.
The original artwork genuinely does feature a Welsh rugby supporter’s badge. True story.

All of which is great, Circles is a really polished entertaining album from a band with a great sound on top form, but it doesn’t help me with my dilemma at all – you know the whole Christina Hendricks thang.  Well, I was going to conclude with a carefully worded moral at the end about how, like the ancient mariner I am now a sadder but a wiser man and ready to embrace responsible adulthood, aged 43.  But I just blew that by getting a ticket to see them, ah well see you down the front!

511 Down.

Moon Duo Circles 05

PS – that video really makes me want to revisit all my King Khan stuff, immediately.

*as in ability to graft, I don’t mean I’ve developed a 1537 smart phone app – highly wonderful though that would be.

**SPOILER ALERT: Resisted.

10 thoughts on “Chrome Not Oak

  1. Dammit that is so totally NOT the decision I thought you were gonna make. I would have guessed you’d chosen A). Because hiatuses are for chumps.*

    Your error occurred long before even arriving at that dilemma. If you hadn’t gotten yourself out for a walk to that record shop in the first place, you;d never have known about that record/gig. But you did. You were there for a reason. And that reason was A).

    Cool write up of another record by a band whose record you shoulda got.

    * trust me, I know.

      1. I need a cape!

        Haha man I really sucked at taking a break. I’ve thought about that, actually. I was OK not writing about the music. I think it was the need to read the blogs by all you other guys that drew me back in. I’d be there reading your site, and then I’d get an oidea for something to post. I blame you people! Hahahahaaaaaaa

  2. As if I wasn’t already interested in thos one you go and throw ZZ Top and Eliminator in there. Curses and damn your eyes.

      1. Definitely one of many selling points. I wasn’t aware there was a new album, either … need to check that out, too.

  3. These guys are quite popular here in my neck of the woods (Northern California–I’m pretty sure they’re based out of San Fran, yes?), and Circles is a terrific album. Love your description here, clearly the funniest and most informative thing i have read all day!

    1. Aww shucks, thank you! I really like them, you’re right they and Wooden Shjips are based out of SF – although I think I remember reading that Moon Duo have moved further north – check out the two in the video, you might bump into them at the shops!

  4. Oh for fuck’s sake, go buy the record too. You’ll be dead in fifty years.

    PS> Recently picked this up on vinyl at a sale (along with the first one). Down you you 1537. Cheers.

    1. 57 years maybe !! I like to think my all round clean living and personal hygiene will get me the extra 7!

      I can’t wait to see them again.

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