Lucid Culture


CD Review: Mostly Other People Do the Killing – This Is Our Moosic

As with the Coen Brothers, it helps with these guys if you get the references, but if you don’t, they’re still a whole lot of fun. The Moosic in the title of the cd refers to a town in Pennsylvania, as, in fact, do all the compositions here by these self-described “bebop terrorists.” Perfectly illustrative image: bass player/bandleader Moppa Elliott standing in his suit with the rest of the band on the Moosic Little League field, casually wielding an aluminum bat. Elliott provides seven paragraphs worth of liner notes, which can be condensed to the following: “In the spirit of Ornette Coleman, we never play the same song remotely the same way twice, nor do we attempt to. We’d rather ham it up and converse through our instruments, sometimes with great wit, sometimes totally incoherently. Why? Because we can, because we’re casually but extraordinarily good at what we do – in fact, we almost won a big award last year and we’ll probably win a few before we’re done – and that savoir faire allows us to take the kind of chances most groups should never, ever attempt.”


Yet even with Elliott’s Ornette fixation, the compositions on this cd stand out every bit as much as the group’s formidable chops and ever-present sense of humor. Ultimately, MOPDTK are hardcore purists who never heard a cliche they didn’t want to lampoon, and they waste no effort in hunting them down. Elliott listens widely and, it seems, almost encyclopedically, at least as far as jazz is concerned. Although his compositions reflect a staggeringly diverse array of influences and perhaps consequently sprawl all over the place, he’s a powerfully terse player, a hard hitter who likes a dirty, gravelly tone. Drummer Kevin Shea plays with vivid intelligence and is perhaps the biggest ham in the band (although Elliott is right up there with him). Sax player Jon Irabagon comes across as a soul guy with a wry sense of humor, although some of the most sublimely ridiculous flights here are his. Trumpeter Peter Evans is their hitman, a ferociously fast, bluesy powerhouse who limits his messing around to when it really counts. Stylistically speaking (at least as far as writing is concerned), this band’s closest relative is the legendary New York group the Microscopic Septet.


Fifteen seconds into the cd’s opening track, Drainlick, Shea is already messing around. Written around a 60s boogaloo theme, the band burn through a verse, eventually all go off scurrying in separate directions, sax and trumpet yodel at each other and then everybody comes together on a flight up the scale. By the time they’re three-quarters of the way there, they realize how funny that is and they start making fun of that too.


Fagundus (a real Pennsylvania town) opens with big, roaring bass chords – since Shea functions much like a pianist in this band, coloring the music, the actual propulsion often falls to Elliott, who attacks it with gusto. Later Irabagon goes out of control, eventually pulled back to earth by an insistent Evans. East Orwell manages to spoof both lite FM smooth-grooves jazz and middle-period, middlebrow Maynard Ferguson: it’s a hoot listening to the band members badgering each other to get in on the madness. The cd’s seventh track, Biggertown begins as a chase sequence, brings it down to the drums, watches a little suspense turn into a game of hide-and-seek and then segues into the 12/8 blues Effort, Patience, Diligence which matter-of-factly chronicles and then savages pretty much every blues cliche there is. The cd ends with its funniest number, a cover of Allentown by Billy Joel. While it wouldn’t be fair to give the joke away, it’s the last thing you’d ever expect from this group, and the satire is cruel and hurtful. Billy Joel is a good musician, so he’d understand what these guys are doing: if he actually cared about what anybody thinks (fat chance of that), it might actually make him rethink his career. As far as Pennsylvania geography is concerned, the only thing missing here is Intercourse, which the band may be saving for the next cd. Until then here’s a strong contender for funniest and funnest cd of the year.

February 11, 2009 - Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , ,

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