Moon Duo – Mazes (Sacred Bones)
by Wallace Wylie
A thing happened in the middle of the ‘80s. It wasn’t called indie (until afterwards). It wasn’t called C86 (until afterwards). What it was called isn’t as important as the music that was being created. The music being created was sloppy, loud, off-key and cheaply recorded. It was being made by people inspired by guitar music who didn’t really know how to recreate particular sounds, who didn’t know how to play all that well, and who inadvertently created something pretty interesting as a result. Question; what happens when you’re inspired by guitar music of the past and you know how to play, you know how to get just the right sounds, and you aren’t sloppy or cheaply recorded? Then you have a problem. Then you begin to sound just like your heroes instead of accidently creating something different. This is the main problem with Moon Duo. It’s all done right. So right, in fact, that there’s no room for mistakes, no room for interesting new sounds. So it comes off as a perfectly executed homage rather than a living breathing piece of art.
Moon Duo are Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips and Sanae Yamada. Mazes is their second album and it’s not really going to surprise you in any way. Granted when opening track ‘Seer’ first begins the noise is identical to the noise at the beginning of ‘Cars’ by Gary Numan but I’m going to guess that this was not intentional. Moon Duo’s influences are untouchable, steeped in alternative-classic credibility and predictability; Neu!, The Modern Lovers, Suicide, Nuggets … you get the picture. It’s hazy stoner rock with a hypnotic bent, and with enough self-medication I’m sure it would make for a pleasant way to pass the time, but I can’t get the nagging feeling out of my head that it’s just The Dukes Of Stratosphear [an 80s alter-ego for XTC – Ed] without the cheeky humour. Music culture doesn’t have any kind of forward momentum anymore so albums like Mazes are allowed to exist without much complaint. It has a small niche audience who are happy to revel in such doom-laden drone-rock. What more need be said?
If you’re after invention this isn’t the place. If you’re after validation for your alternative-classic vinyl collection then this will suit you just fine. Play a stoned-motorik beat, add some repetitive organ, sing in a vaguely atonal voice about … stuff … dude, then wig out on your guitar for five minutes. That’s the formula for all eight songs and they’re all much of a muchness. What gets me is that in this context it all sounds so tasteful and congenial. Isn’t this music supposed to be dangerous? Maybe a little bit? Damn hippies.