The MOTH family tree is probably one of the largest of any local band in the city, counting in their ranks over the years members of Heartless Bastards, Bastion, Mohenjo Daro and The Virgins (among many others). But the centrifugal force has always been founder Brad Stenz (joined today by drummer Kevin Hogle, bassist Eli White and guitarist Eric "The Billionaire" Diedrichs) and his hyper-catchy songwriting. After the broad, dynamic spectrum of MOTH's sole Virgin release, Stenz reemerged with Drop Deaf, an explosive, punchy exhibition of Agro-Pop that, while still immaculately put together, seemed more direct and straight-from-the-gut powerful. That trend continues on Gravity, which rides a perfect balance of energy and finesse. The guitar textures are huge and sharpened, the neck-snapping rhythms jerky and thumping, and Stenz's distinct vocal style sounds as anxious as ever. The nervous energy is impeccably matched with New Wave flourishes, from the syncopated guitar riffage to the quirky, danceable beats. But, at its essence, this is simply a tremendous, powerful Guitar Rock album.
On the kick-off track, "Helpless," Stenz shows his unquestionable ability to reel off hook after hook throughout a song -- in fact, barely a measure goes by without one. "Revolution" sounds like Franz Ferdinand on a caffeine bender, the polite Scottish burr replaced by Stenz's high-wire vocal idiosyncrasies, while the balladic "Perfect" and "How Could You?" show Stenz still has the ability to gear-down (though he still sounds antsy and eager to crank the volume and pace as soon as possible).myspace.com/moth)
Bark Equals Bite
Local Hip Hop foursome Da Muttss celebrate their new full-length, Conversations Over Blacks, Blunts, Sodas & Brews, with a show Friday at The Mad Frog.
The key to the success of Conversations -- the first long-player from the crew -- is versatility. With a plethora of styles and skills, Da Muttss have created an album that never gets its wheels stuck in the mud of predictability. Practically every member multitasks, sharing DJ, MC and production duties. While lesser acts would give in to the "too many cooks" adage and conjure up something distractingly unfocussed, Da Muttss manage to use their varying abilities to concoct an album that grabs and holds the listener's attention from start to finish. It's like a funky, dizzy fun-house ride, where every turn offers something fresh and interesting.
From the first seconds of the album, it's clear that Da Muttss aren't your typical Hip Hop group. No Scarface samples here -- instead, the group lifts quotes from Blue Velvet and Bill Murray in Stripes. And, lyrically, the members can be social commentators or clever word-playas, each motif presented with above-par ingenuity, never resorting to the usual posturing clichés. The beats and sonics of the tracks are spellbinding -- the rubbery scratches over a bombastically distorted bass grind on opener "If These Teeth Could Talk," the serpentine flute flutter on "One, 2, 1, Two," the raining electronic drizzle of "Can You Feel It?" With tracks littered with effects and often startling sonic ornamentation, there's almost a psychedelic aspect to Conversations, but, like with everything else in Muttssville, don't get too comfortable -- the trip's colors are ever mutating, and one thick bass rumble is enough to snap your ears out of the clouds in an instant.
Among the many highlights are the last call lament, "No Mo Brews," which is interwoven with a '60s-ish "la, la, la" sample that is both creepy and jolly, the inventive "Beathog," which is laced with frigid electro-minimalism to great effect, and "Hajimimajite," with a chorus hook that blissfully recalls Digable Planets at their finest. The group takes some cues from the old Native Tongue collective (De La, Tribe, etc.), particularly in their memorable chorus chants, but the different MCs bring to the table so many assorted flows and delivery styles, it's refreshingly difficult to pin them to just one thing. It's East meets West meets South, classic vs. contemporary, tough vs. cerebral, traditional vs. experimental, all rolled into one captivating mix. (myspace.com/damuttss)
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com