|From NME, November 30, 1991|
IN THE GATEAU
Why are seminal shoe-g(r)azers MOOSE eating Elvis when they should be schmoozing down at Syndrome? Simon Williams watches as the men who took the 'r' out of morose rip the intestines out of the King Of Rock 'n' Roll. Elk on earth: Martyn Goodacre
Where are Moose? Syndrome, Oxford Street, Thursday night. The indie oasis in the crass West End desert. Home-from-home for the Scene That Drinks Itself Tiddly with warm cans of lager. My mission is to corner Numero Uno Celebrationists Moose in the natural environment.
Look! There's the bassist from Swervedriver! And over there, at the bar - aren't those two blokes in Faboulous? And isn't that geezer in Genius Freak? What a turn out! The only evidence of any scene, alas, is the presence of a singer of the Ocean Colour variety. So where are Moose?
Our Features Ed. Hates this place, yet loves the fact he's been banned from here after a disparaging Blur review. He wants Syndrome to die. Club maestro Jared, however, appears deliriously unruffled by the ratio 'twixt punters (loads) and pop stars (bugger all).
"We actually counted the bands in the other week," beams the DJ. "We had 16 in one night, including the likes of Nirvana and Hole. But we don't care; we've been going for three years, and we'll carry on, bands or no bands!"
Wise words, but WHERE THE F--- ARE MOOSE!!??
"I WAS at home watching LA Law, actually," confesses shamefaced singer Russell Yates.
"Yeah, I was at home as well, with my kid," nods guitarist Kevin McKillop, apologetically. "I used to go to Syndrome about two years ago, but I'm a family man now. I have my responsibilities."
It's Friday afternoon in a Battersea pub and Moose are making their excuses. Nothing strange in that, it's just two normal blokes proving that even the most topical of clowns in the rock 'n' roll circus can escape from the Big Tent, remove the red noses and wallow in Realityland.
What is strange, however, is that both Russell and Kevin are wearing Mafia style suits. Odder still, a few yards down the road in a gloomy Sarf London studio, drummer Damien Warburton and new bassist Lincoln Fong--similarly smartly attired--are acting out the role of mourners as a group of young men in '50s gear prepare to eat a life-sized effigy of Elvis Presley which lies, Kingishly, in a coffin.
Elv often gets it in the neck. Later, He will get it in the stomach as Moose will disembowel Him and feed His innards to all the young dudes. Provided He doesn't melt under the fierce camera lights first. Tsk, the world of videos, eh?
"It's pretty reverential, actually," explains Kevin. "I love Elvis, I really love him. But the video's supposed to look surreal."
"Thing is," blurts Russell, "We did a typical grainy indie video for 'Jack'. So now we're making a typical Eating Elvis indie video!"
'STRANGE' ISN'T a word the springs to mind when the conversation turns, joints creaking, to Moose. Not when you can use moody, predictable, gloomy, archetypally indie scenists if you can be arsed to peer beyond the media facade, that is.
Being in possession of an elephant-sized nasal orifice, I can remember Moose's second ever gig at London's ULU in the summer of 1990: reeling punch-drunk from their stumbling determination and brilliantly naive (ab)use of effects-fucked pop, your hack staggared through into the bar only to be accosted by a sewious stew-dent creature who sneered: "Totally generic! Bet they'll be in the On page in three months' time!!"
Wrong! It was six months before 'Jack' hit the record racks and Moose became fully-fledged Onsters. But the battle lines were drawn long before Slowdive spouted on about the post-rave comedown. Hell, it was Moose--by virtue of a terrified Russell singing from lyrics taped to the floor by his feet--that inspired the phrase shoe-gazing! Are they Beelzebub's bastard offspring - OR WHAT??
"That ULU gig was a baptism of fire," shudders Kevin. "I can remember being really parched but not going for a drink, 'cos I thought I'd drop it!"
"It was completely surreal," agrees a nervous Russell, "I remember looking across at Kevin and he was just a pair of eyes and taking three hours to pick up a bottle of water and SHAKING! But our first gig in Windsor the night before was even worse! We had a soundcheck and I just completely blanked. I didn't know what was going on and I just folded myself up and turned into a mouse!"
Are they Men or are they Moose? Kevin and Russell, having transcended the 25 barrier, may be older than their supposed post-publik skool contemporaries, but that hasn't blessed the duo with the confidence of maturity. Their conversation is littered with "Nice One!"s and uncertain observations on their role in the musical Monopoly game, a position as vague as a bewildered octogenarian trying to buy postage stamps from Dewhurst the Butchers.
Moose have never followed--let alone stipulated--any gameplan. They fell into those initial Lush supports with a collective shrug and a 'Why the f--- not?' (non-)attitude--and they fell because they were pushed.
"If we hadn't met Damien and someone who could play bass we'd still be listening to records and playing guitars and, erm, drinking," admits Russell. "When me and Kevin first met we'd go out to the pub, then we'd go back to his place and he'd soothe me by playing the guitar...hahaha! If it was up to just me and him we'd still be talking about a band!"
"We never had any fantasies about playing the Town & Country Club or dreams of stage-divers," frowns Kevin. "When you get that kind of thing it's a bit of a surprise: the first time I saw someone clamber on stage I thought, maybe he wants to go to the toilet--it's down that way..."
Excepting the stark terror of playing live, Moose are self-effacingly relaxed about their so-called career. They can't bear the thought of doing a tour which lasts more than then dates, and it's the laid-back attitude which encourages a communal musical flow: when Damien couldn't make a gig, Chris from Lush filled the drumstool; when Kevin attended his child's birth, Tim Stereolab played guitar; conversely, Russell moonlights as a Stereolab guitarist and Kevin has played with See See Rider. Add to this gigs with Chapterhouse, Blur, and Slowdive, and it's no wonder Moose have become embroiled in a London-based mafia of bands, with horses' heads in the beds and 20 bassists at the Camden Underworld and all that.
This may give the impression that the Moosites and their mates are so desperate for attention that one band isn't sufficient--they have to become muso tarts and play around to get satisfaction. Wrong! Moose are vehemently anti-stardom. It's been a constant criticism of 1991 that the shoe-gazers are shattering pop's iconoclastic ideals by mingling with The Kids at gigs, being Just Like Us instead of 'up there'. And few are more down-to earth than Moose.
"No-one ever recognizes me, anyway," mutters Kevin. "I try to hide at the back of photos! But I've go nothing against that 'Look At Us!' thing."
"Some people are really good at it," enthuses Russell. "Like Damon from Blur or Bobby Gillespie. But it's not in our character. I've always been able to see the idiotic side of things--if I'm acting the prat then I really know it."
"I'm not the kind of bloke that could adopt a persona," defends Kevin, "like wearing a Goth wig and rockin' out at the Marquee! I had this conversation once with Damon about autographs and he said 'Don't worry about it, it takes about three seconds and it's what somebody wants from you'--he had this little philosophy about it. I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Then again, I've only been asked to sign anything about three times!"
THE MOST vicious observations on shoe-gazing over the past six months have been based upon the bands' (cough) sonic similarities, a uniform image/attitude/sound which therefore encourages a cultural blandness of somnambulistic extremes. In their defence, these are early days for the groups, but also an era of promise and potential when eventually the Murmurers should branch out on to individual paths.
Bingo! On their new (third) EP Moose have managed to break out of the pigeonhole and spread their, erm, antlers with 'This River Will Never Run Dry'. Always subtly--frequently clumsily--different to the rest of the pack, 'This River...' takes Moose light years away from the effects-stunned norm with a dreamy suicide ride which owes as much to 'Isn't Anything' as that Sonia single nicked from the Building Society advert.
Kevin and Russell--jabbering vinyl junkies to the man--immediately start spouting forth about Neil Young and Midnight Cowboy, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, about dustiness.
"We made a conscious decision to use really old amps to get an authentic sound," beams Kevin, "and it worked! We didn't think that anyone would be interested in it, but our label went mad and wanted it as a single!"
It's a testing time, and Moose have passed with flying colours. All of them savage shades of blue. 'This River...' is different for sure, yet it's hardly likely to suddenly endear the band to the rave-craving cognoscenti.
"In a way I would say we were dour," confesses Kevin, hopelessly. "But if you meet us on a social level we're not dour people at all. It all goes back to what you listen to. Would you accuse Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Tim Buckley of being dour? Yes! Boom boom! I think I'll dig a hole know..."
Yeah yeah yeah. The shoe-gazers should make records like EMF. They should sneer like the Manic Street Preachers. They should scream like Daisy Chainsaw, mainline on sufficient Grade A narcotics to make Guns N' Noses wilt and crumble and embrace hedonistic virtues like every gig is gonna be their last. And, naturally, if they all did that we'd be crying out for someone like Moose to come along.
"We do have some really good times in this band..." apologizes Kevin, steadying himself to rip the intestines out of the King Of Rock 'n' Roll.
Moose take the 'r' out of morose and make everything all right again. Heads up.