Album Review: Blue Moon Revue ‘Phases’
Daily or even weekly readers of this blog have likely picked up on a pet peeve of mine. I take issue with the trend amongst bands labeled as “indie” to strive unrealistically for complete originality with their music. These bands appear to shun any relic of the past. All too often this leads to gimmicky distractions that serve to cheapen the art rather than enrich it.
Fellow music blogger Zach Hart indirectly spoke to this problem in his terrific retrospective “Pitchfork at Fifteen: WLFY on Pitchfork” saying,
“I understand that time and tastes change, but good music and the personal experiences that shape individual taste do not. I live by the thought that good music is good music regardless of genre, album cover, band name, or the look of the band.”
My disdain for this failed attempt at a new sound stems from a longtime appreciation for the blues. A genre whose songs are so shared and incestuous that tracing their origin becomes a near impossibility. The strength of a blues performance lies in the artist’s ability to relate emotionally to the material. The authenticity comes from the musician convincing the audience that these same 12 bars are as meaningful now as ever.
Indianapolis’ Blue Moon Revue is an independent rock band. Underappreciated, underfed and unsigned – they qualify in every sense of the word. Their latest release Phases was recorded under the guidance of Alan Johnson at the Static Shack. The album is a satisfying mix of hungry, energetic songwriting and airtight instrumentation that blends into soulful, funked-out rock.
Phases kicks off with the punchy, distorted blues of “Lil Mama.” We featured a video for the song in a post just before the band’s December show at Radio Radio. On the first spin, you’ll be certain you’ve been listening to this track for years. Lead singer Matt Marshall begs unabashedly for the returned phone call of an unresponsive lover, while Dave Sullivan mimics the singer’s desperation on his Les Paul. Good stuff.
“Waiting On a Wire” serves as another of Phases’ more successful tracks. Here, Sullivan bounces along with a stabbing horn line, while bassist Andy Salge takes the reins on vocals. I would place Salge amongst this city’s strongest bass players. In an earlier era, he would have made the ideal session musician. It’s rare to find a band that rotates front men effectively, but Marshall and Salge trade with ease, each bringing a unique voice without destroying the band’s identity.
“Waiting on a Wire”
I am also thrilled by BMR’s decision to bring keyboardist Gary Mielke into the fold on a full-time basis. Pianists often serve as unsung heroes in the classic rock formula. While I may not argue that point here, Mielke’s play adds a texture and depth to BMR’s songs that I look to see expanded in the future, particularly in their live shows. His addition has, to this point, been subtle but effective.
Blue Moon Revue may not be a band at the cusp of conquering the musical landscape. Maybe they don’t have “the look,” but several simple facts remain. These guys are more talented than many acts with larger regional and national followings. They sound like what they are: Midwest gentlemen that were raised on classic rock, funk and blues. Rather than run away from the music that brought them here, they chose instead to embrace it. If that is a crime, then it is a crime worth committing.
Download a copy of Phases on iTunes. Indy folks, don’t miss BMR’s 2nd Annual Mardi Gras Party, featuring a few covers of the Crescent City’s finest at Locals Only on February 17th. Bloomington residents can check out the new material at Bear’s Place on February 24th. Hard copies of the album are available at a few locations as well. Eat, drink, listen local. Click below for a free stream of Phases:
Written by Rob Peoni