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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.