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V/A - Moo Sick

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Artist: V/A

Album: Moo Sick

Label: Seriously Groovy

Review date: Sep. 8, 2004

For all of the apparent changes that popular music cycles through, the guitar/bass/drums format never seems to fall far from favor. Since 1995, London-based Seriously Groovy has unswervingly dedicated itself to rock’s basic format and its primary vehicle, the song. The label’s latest sampler Moo Sick features three songs apiece from four bands on their current roster. From Emetrex’s lo-fi soup and Mother Goose’s strung out song structures to Jet Johnson’s dreamrock and Econoline’s unabashed power pop, Moo Sick clings dearly to the motto of ”three chords and the truth.”

Unfortunately, the guitar/bass/drums path has been so well trodden in the annals of rock, a band with this line-up inevitably echoes past incarnations. That leaves us with a double-edged sword. Such familiarity makes it difficult for a group to achieve a wholly individual sound, but the familiar sounds also breed comfort. So when Econoline’s Ian Scanlon laments over acoustic guitars, accordion and swathes of fuzzy guitar about conformity (adding a little sardonic bite by singing from the viewpoint of the institution/social pressure) that he evokes memories of Robert Smith adds a homey feeling, instead of provoking cries of mimicry.

The Norwegian-based Jet Johnson’s three contributions follow the same stripped-down path as their recent Death Song EP. Fragile guitar riffs and a steady rhythm section pulse support Caroline Nesbo’s wispy intonation of the group’s confessional lyrics. “Donnie” drips with the Velvet Underground’s deadpan irony. Nesbo’s Nico-sweet vocals almost make one believe the unrequited love lyrics. In a similar but more masculine vein Mother Goose’s “Cocaine Mirror,” with its wafer-thin monotonic throb and decadent lyrics, visits the darker corners occupied by Lou Reed and Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the Night.”

Relying on simple loops to build a detached, spare sound, the duo Emetrex delivers the most adventurous moments. “Hammer in My Skull” launches into a rocking chug after lulling the listener with a complacent, ambient intro. The sexy “Swimming” features Rick Lestcault’s bleary voice over a churning bass ’n’ drums core, adorned by slinking guitar and humming organ tones. A drum machine and web of acoustic and electric guitars build a brittle atmosphere on “Secret Parts”.

Nothing here blazes any trails, but Moo Sick and Seriously Groovy’s straight-forward vision and love of simple and direct expression invigorates, like a quick hit of adrenalin to the digital age’s programmable nervous system.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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