Friday, February 4, 2011
Laura King and Melissa Swingle best known as Chapel Hill cool The Moaners pumped Nocturnal last Fall on Holidays for Quince Records and gave us ten new reasons to dig on their raw rattling two piece garage romping style. Albums past gave us constructs of down tuned Southern blues rock surliness and tempered lyrics offering straight truths which together ferociously guarded delicate feminine vulnerability. In Nocturnal, the signature surliness of Melissa's grinding guitar and of Laura's washy kit is built again, but this time with a wind burned wild west eeriness that takes shape in the blurry light of its more personal and reflective tracks, delivering them a bolder more fearless persona.
The album gets going with the old school beat box-esque "Humid Air" which feels like its building up a Tarantino Western scene just before the hero begins a villainous killing spree. Its slide guitar textures and deep cutting strokes give it big screen imagery and drive you for answers on what and where you are when listening. "Humid Air" offers a color to the album and sets time period and universe which aids listening. Before navigating the natural flow of the tracking I most often found myself skipping from there to the albums most complex and advanced arrangement "Blue Moon". Dry and dusty metaphors stack up on the chest like a heavy decision as questions of "what does it all mean" meander in and out of the clamoring, ever working, mechanical instrumentation and Melissa's despondent heart broken calls, "you saw the wolf at my door, you knew just what was in store..." With her trademark bow and saw, the message blows like a cold wind to a silent soothsayer whom shares the story.
The albums mid range tracks offer the real staying power for a full album listen with a host of rich dramas and interesting story lines. "Cowboy Bob" is a story teller song of legend, infamy, and folk heroism. A character named Peggy Jo Tally is simply described by The Moaners as taking a masked joy ride through the bank coffers of little towns, but as the instruments tell the story with a deep voice and a darkened inflection, we are reminded that its not the story you tell, its how you tell it that counts. "Ramblin" gives us the first real bridge back to their honky tonk roots with a porch floor stomper perfectly suited for picking up steam on a smooth Friday evening just before shit breaks loose in town. The album loosens up just enough with the the latter tracks to give you a boost on the way out. "Bartender's Lament" is a Steven Malkmus style lackadaisical satire. I can see Melissa tossing down the bar rag and walking out on this one. It's a "get out of my face, no wait, I'll get out of yours, god where is the closest door, who has a cigarette" moment and it's delivered with heart's honesty. "Happiness is the Road" gives us whimsical character with age old wisdom. Its a nursery rhyme for rock and roll.
The Moaners closed out a solid 2010 releasing Nocturnal, running out for a couple of tours, performing at the inaugural Hop Scotch music festival in Raleigh, and filming a showcase for the upcoming "40 Nights of Rock & Roll" documentary in which they will own a featured spot. 2011 seems to be picking up with great pace. The Moaners have already announced a split 7" with fellow Chapel Hill rock royalty Jennyanykind which had a nearly half funded kickstarter goal within the first week and The Moaners will also play a local show at Slims in Raleigh on Feb 11th with Chapel Hill fi-hi rockers North Elementary. --Carrboro Ninja