Tin Cans and Car Tires
First Appeared at The Music Box, December 1998, Volume 5, #12
Written by John Metzger
Eight years ago in upstate New York, moe. was born. The band originally was a quintet that featured a saxophone player, and they called themselves Five Guys Named Moe after the old Louis Jordan song. Since then, the group has shrunk to a quartet and shortened its name simply to moe. The ensemble relentlessly has traveled the country, performing up to 200 shows a year while varying its setlist from one night to the next.
moe.'s fan base has grown by leaps and bounds, aided by the band's relentless touring schedule, a fanatical Internet following, and the vast tape trading circuit. This grassroots movement was so effective and supportive that the band sold-out New York's Irving Plaza as an unsigned act. After signing with Sony's 550 Music and releasing No Doy, the group performed before a capacity crowd at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall on its first trip to the West Coast and opened all of the shows on the 1997 Furthur Festival tour.
This past September, moe. — which features guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, bassist Rob Derhak, and newcomer Vinnie Amico on drums — released its second major-label effort Tin Cans and Car Tires. The album is by far the band's best effort to date, and it combines the best aspects of No Doy with those of the independently released Headseed.
moe. always has been driven toward improvisational music, and it regularly combines rock, funk, jazz, reggae, country, and blues into a rich bundle of sheer energy. The group's often eccentric lyrics, odd meters, and orchestrated musical arrangements borrow heavily from bands that include Frank Zappa, Yes, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground, Steely Dan, The Beatles, the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, and the Grateful Dead — to name a few. Yet, the way that it combines these elements yields a sound that is so unique that it can only be described as "moe. music", which accordingly is impossible to categorize.
On Tin Cans and Car Tires, moe. allows its various styles and influences to cook to perfection, and the album carries a perfect balance between the group's live and studio personalities. In addition, its outstanding songwriting skills are strongly in evidence. In fact, on this album, moe. focuses as much on songwriting as it does on the jams — something that is sadly missing in a majority of the ensembles involved in the ever-expanding jam-band scene.
The songs on Tin Cans and Car Tires are linked thematically through a subject that moe. has quite a bit of experience with — life on the road. Perhaps it's both the deeply personal nature of the subject matter and the fact that these songs were perfected in a live setting that gives this album its edge. Throughout the set, the band explores every sound and style possible, leaving no stone unturned as it travels across a vast musical terrain. Often, moe. will abruptly change course mid-stream, altering the contour of the music with an amazingly fluid motion.
Tin Cans and Car Tires kicks off with the power blues of Stranger than Fiction and the frantic stop and go arrangement of the aptly titled Spaz Medicine. Tight vocal harmonies grace songs like Hi & Lo and It, and groovy textures float through the funky talk-box rhythms of Nebraska and the psychedelic grunge of Head. The band even tackles an Allman Brothers-blend of Southern country-rock with tremendous clarity in the season-cycle of Letter Home.
But the crown jewel of Tin Cans and Car Tires is the album's centerpiece Plane Crash. Its orchestrated arrangment bridges the gap between the physical and mental travel that takes place while spending time on the road. The ominous heady opening chords give way to a groove that cruises by like a car's wheels on the highway. moe. rips a page straight out of The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) as it builds the song to a tremendous crescendo before the song crashes into the lofty interplay of guitar and drums.
Tin Cans and Car Tires is an album that should win moe. new fans and further expand its tremendously bright future. It places this talented quartet in the top tier of the third generation of jam-oriented bands, and it certainly will take the ensemble to the next level. The group can perform in virtually any style, and it can jam with the best. moe. combines its influences into its own unique style, and its members are great songwriters as well. What more can you ask for? ½
Of Further Interest...
Tin Cans and Car Tires is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box