S/T by MoaningRelease date: March 2, 2018
Label: Sub Pop
Hailing from LA, the trio of Sean Solomon, Pascal Stevenson, and Andrew MacKelvie finally came together as Moaning almost a decade after they initially crossed paths. Their name brings to mind clashing ideas of groaned apathy, writhing sadness, and unendurable ecstasy. All of which help to inform the post-punk soundscape of these Sub Pop debutants. Their music sounds like the endless summer twinkle of Los Angeles brushing up against those dark Mulholland nights.
The first track on the album, ‘Don’t Go’, is a raging downer. All driving bass and haunting 80s spectres. Coupled then with Solomon’s guitar work and the slacker elegance of it all whips this directly into your hippocampus. Stuck in there for good. ‘Tired’ starts with a gentle lollop. A swagger that suggests that it knows it doesn’t even have to try. It’s effortless. But in the way that a birds eye camera can swirl around the sunglasses-sporting driver of a crimson drop-top, weaving in and out of neon glows. “It’s all gone… It caught fire… It’s so wrong and I’m so tired”
Hi-hat triplets gift ‘Artificial’ an air of tripped anxiety. But by the time the climbing chorus arrives, elevated by soaring guitars and a hook that coats pop in billowing black denim, all worries roll away. That is until the jittery penultimate section urges nervous digging of crud from splintered fingernails before, calmingly, that refrain returns, engulfing all anxieties in a warm, comforting bubble. The mood of this record is such that each track feels as if it should be accompanying a short film of Caleb Landry Jones depressing a hypodermic needle and sinking into resplendent velvet.
Whilst ‘Does This Work For You’ initially ambles along, it soon surges into life with throttled guitars and a galloping drum beat. Bassist Pascal Stevenson cuts a solitary figure pinning the freewheeling drums and snarling guitars down, tightening a leash upon them that stops this all from spiralling off into oblivious. It could be a love lorn furrow that causes Solomon to opine that “We’re the same, everything else has changed” on ‘The Same’. Or it could be a weary eye cast at the state of the political landscape of 2018, holding on to the vanishing dream that the bulk of civilisation doesn’t want to spiral down into the gutter. At the very least their storming bass wash, sliding beneath glorious guitar leads is a same that should never change.
The album’s high watermark (and also its most concise) is an oscillation from joy to pessimistic hope. ‘For Now’ is a melodious triumph that picks up tenderly lured emotions and invites them aboard an unhinged Wurlitzer, blasting furious shoegaze as if played by those uncertain that they’ll survive the night. Similarly, on ‘Useless’, the three piece tub thump their way through a heavy, speed-obsessed, slugger of a track. Sounding like Ringo Deathstarr covering Nirvana at their most volatile.
Glints of American Football arise in ‘Misheard’. Those still missed guitar sweeps reverberate through the neck as it slides its calling card across the table towards low and resigned vocals. The album then ends on the sort of dust-kicking finale that it’s good to know can still be hustled together. It’s a lo-fi stomp that shakes garage doors and dirties Converse. Leaving us surfacing from a heady junky nod to take a sugary bite of drifting candy floss.