Moaning - Moaning

by Brian Thompson Rating:7 Release Date:2018-03-02
Moaning - Moaning
Moaning - Moaning

For better or for worse, Moaning, the abrasive shoegaze trio out of Los Angeles, seem to have chosen an accurate moniker. Their self-titled debut is dripping with sullen lyrics and fuzzy reverb, as monotone vocals glide over the ruckus energy that pervades them. The group, made up of Sean Solomon (guitar, vocals), Pascal Stevenson (bass), and Andrew MacKelvie (drums), has teamed up with producer Alex Newport (Bloc Party, At the Drive-In) for an album that blends a handful of seemingly contrasting styles in order to create an ethereal post-punk stew.

From its opening bars, Moaning feels of another time and place. “Don’t Go” sets the bitter tone of the record, dissecting a doomed relationship while riding the fragile line between world-wearied apathy and hopeless yearing. Continuing the retro vibe, “Tired” cranks up the synth chords and displays a lush dreamscape that seems like a natural fit for the band. The record is constantly at war, as the band’s delicate, celestial hemisphere clashes with its unchecked rage. Moaning hit their stride when they are immulating New Order and Slowdive, rather than when they strain the heavier pockets of their influences.

The boys also clearly have more grandiose ambitions in mind, which seep through as they experiment with rhythmic prog-rock expressions on tracks like “Useless” and “Misheard.” Shifting time signatures and erratic melodies give way to crashing waves of catharsis. It is a welcome stretch that finds the band testing their ultimate potential, but the rapid shift in style and tone feels like it was tacked onto the record after the fact. It’s an exhaustive run, and one that may have better served the band’s sophomore effort.

Still, it is a fascination with the morose that reigns supreme on Moaning. The tracklist is speckled with shadowy anthems like “Does This Work For You” and “Artificial,” the latter sounding like Interpol covering Depeche Mode in a dark time warp. These concentrated bursts of sorrow seem to be where Moaning feels most comfortable. Solomon is wrestling with his demons on the track, and he consistently showcases the kind of vulnerability you hope for in a lyricist.

Moaning is a battlecry from a band who is clearly figuring out how to establish its own distinct voice apart from its influences. The record’s perpetual doom and gloom can flirt with redundancy, but there are flashes of illuminated promise to be found here. It is a capable debut, and one that demonstrates a willingness to iron out the kinks on the second go-around.

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