Review: moe. – What Happened to the LA LAs (2012)

Upon listening to this record one of the things that kept crossing my mind was “why am I listening to a summer record in January?”  Moe. is a jam band that brings the feel-good vibe that begs to be blasted in some sort of outdoor setting.  The difficulty in reviewing a jam record can actually point to the strength of a band’s musicianship.  Depending on who you are, the band’s strength can be its weakness.  I’ll elaborate in a moment.

The record opens with the story-esque “The Bones of Lazarus”, setting a mood not unlike an opening number in a rock-based musical.  The proceeding tracks “Haze” and “Rainshine” both carry semi-pensive moods that give way eventually to more upbeat jam sessions.  Actually, this pattern could be applied to most of the record.  No, not the pensive giving way to jams thing, I mean simply setting up a mood which is then complimented by an appropriate jam session.

The one exception to the above pattern is “Chromatic Nightmare”, a quirky instrumental accentuated by xylophone.  I don’t know if this track would be the soundtrack to one of my nightmares, but it would certainly fit any dream that leaves me going “WTF?” (which is most of them).

The highlight of the record is the nearly 8 minute “Downward Facing Dog” which takes enough twists and turns to warrant multiple versions of the song.  A summery start to the song yields to sung memories of past celebration.  The song is best articulated by the lyrics “while leaves dance on somebody’s lawn.”  This brings to mind the thought that this single is like a more sophisticated “Closing Time.”  Distorted guitar loops force the mood to linger, but not in a bad way.  There is a radio single version (kind of curious as Moe. doesn’t really lend itself to the radio, in my opinion).  “Two Way Street” might be the better choice for the radio as it fits neatly into 3 minutes and carries a catchy verse and chorus easily distinguishable from the record.  Furthermore, it seems like “Two Way Street” would fit comfortably on any classic rock station.

The bottom line is that for this reviewer to get into the meat of the record, it would necessitate throwing around some musical jargon that may throw some casual enthusiasts for a loop.  Long-time moe. fans should love the record, and fans just beginning to explore jam bands ought to enjoy the record as well. My primary issue with the record is that at times the songs wrap up abruptly.  “Downward Facing Dog” might be the only song over seven minutes I’ve listened to that left me without a sense of closure.  By the way, I fall into that latter category of just beginning to explore jam bands – no shame!

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Rating: 6.5/10
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