Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Duff Review: Moon "The Moon EP"

6-song CD

[Editor's note: To help tackle the rapidly growing pile of releases waiting to be reviewed at The Duff Guide to Ska HQ, we've enlisted our friend and ex-Moon Records colleague Adam Coozer of The Coozer Files, ReadJunk, READ Magazine, and the legendary and long-gone Long Island-based skazine Two Left Feet, to write up some of the ska and reggae CDs and digital files sent our way. Between work and family, it's oftentimes hard to find the time to sit down and give all of these albums a proper review, so I really appreciate Adam's help! Apologies to all bands who have been caught up in the backlog! From now on, I'll be attaching a byline to all reviews--but please assume that any review that doesn't have a name associated with it was written by me (and really, Adam and I have such different writing styles that it should be pretty evident who wrote what).]

(Reviewed by Adam Coozer)

I don’t have a press kit, so I don’t know if these Seattle-based youngsters named themselves after the seminal 80s and 90s label. From the lunar imagery on their album, I have a sinking feeling they just like the heavenly body and have never heard of our favorite third-wave record factory. Though I guess it would be audacious if intentional.

So, the good: Although youthful, Moon the band is happily entrenched in the 2 Tone sound. No scratchy punk-with-horns or dull high school jazz recital here--just the bouncy, dorky fun of Madness. (They even close the album with a note-for-note cover of “One Step Beyond.”) The drums and guitars steadily hold the 2 Tone-y upbeat and the bass playing is appropriately acrobatic.

The bad: The vocals are horrendously flat and off-key. They’re bearable when the vocal lines call for a low register, like on “What I Know” or are supported by catchy gang vocals like on “Runaway.” But on a ballad like “Karma,” where the vocals stay in a high range, every cracked note is a personal affront to music. I haven’t heard a voice crack so much since Phyllis Dillon’s version of “Close to You.”

Another issue is that the horn section seems awfully squeaky. Not that they’re flubbing notes, but the horns’ sound quality is almost kazoo-like. This might just be a result of the demo-y production, but some would argue that ska is doofy enough without toy instruments. Personally, I would not argue that. I love me some kazoos!

But these issues can make for a painful listen, especially with durations averaging 4 ½ minutes. On a side note, there is no reason for bouncy, 2 Tone-y songs to be this long. I don’t think The Specials ever had a song over 4 minutes, except for maybe "Free Nelson Mandela" and the extended remix of "Ghost Town." (But then again, those were their biggest hits, so what do I know?)

Point is, if Moon wants to be worthy of the name, they need to trim their tunes and consider instrumentals. I applaud their youth exuberance and appreciation for Madness, but this is a checkered album in both the ska and non-ska sense of the word.

Duff Guide to Ska Grade: C+

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