by Kjell Hansen (@yungskimblez)
One would be hard-pressed to find a band even remotely similar to Queen Moo in the current landscape of ‘indie’ music. How many bands can claim equal parts comparison to Queen (name aside) and Miles Davis (both Blue and Brew)? At this stage in the evolution of ‘indie’ rock, theatricality (at least in the traditional sense) is not really a big aesthetic factor, but, boy does it feel like a welcome change of pace with the Connecticut band’s third full length Faint Sounds of Us Hanging Out.
There are a lot of distinct traits that create the Queen Moo ethos: technical chops, witty, often confessional lyrics belted out loud and proud, and intense dynamic shifts in every possible way. We get all the usual fodder here, but with an expanded sonic palette. The echoes and chorus on the noodly guitars and piano create a wider sonic atmosphere than ever before, and the horn section (all played by one Scott Bevins) runs deep…. REALLY deep. The instrumentation is impressive, if not intimidating, but there is still plenty to easily grasp onto upon first listen.
The lyrics for instance, while not always crystal clear in their meaning, are engaging, and often times very funny. “At least compliment my vocal performance when I’m up here sharing sensitive shit,” John Rule III sings on “Heartstrings,” touching upon the core of every front-person’s intent. It’s so blunt, so true, and, yes, the vocal performance is truly fantastic. Vocalist/guitarist Rule trades his vibrato-filled bellowing and Buckley-esque falsetto back and forth with vocalist/bassist Kevin O’Donnell’s mellow croon. Their combined styles fit together in a most peculiar and pleasing way; as do guitarist Oscar Godoy’s prog-blues shreds and drummer Nicholas Charlton’s Deerhoof-esque freak outs.
Much like the album cover, showing photos of each member swirling into one pretty collage, the emphasis is on how the four individuals function as a team to create this oddball party. The songs morph and evolve over their courses as if living things. The quiet/loud dynamics typical in alt-rock are strained to extremes. The tempos shift from swift to glacial. Time signatures slide around like coins in a glove compartment. The real feat is how natural it all feels. There’s nothing rigid about any of it. Take the closing track “Fall for Anything,” where a classic-rock-radio style riff is played against an easy-going ¾ swing beat, to create a mind-bending polyrhythmic shuffle. It’s the type of musical freedom afforded to the very skilled. What sets Moo apart from many other bands willing and able to do stuff like this is the emotion and personality they put into it. It’s truly a feat.