|From Melody Maker, March 23, 1991|
HORNS OF PLENTY
MAT SMITH locks antlers with the guitar band who are show-stealing their way through support slots all over the country.
"None of us are gig-headed. We're more inclined to ask our friends if the gig was all right. You see, we still feel incredibly embarrassed that what we're doing is not really that difficult, and for everybody to be paying so much attention seems quite mad. That's why we always have films. You see, just watching us standing there might not be enough."
Moose worry constantly that "it might not be enough." They're self-effacing in the extreme. And when singer Russell puts his onstage non-communication down to overwhelming shyness rather than petulant cool, he also admits the only reason he's singing at all is because nobody else in the band would. Furthermore, Moose hate the idea of being interviewed lest they appear "egotistical," claim not to have rationalized what it is they're doing that's got everybody raving, and generally conduct themselves in an interview in a manner that makes Slowdive look like David Lee Roth.
"You can start getting conceited about how good you are, and if you believe everybody telling you that you're really good you'll get big-headed," says drummer Damien with childlike honesty.
Moose have been roaming the plains around London's toilets for just a few months. Yet in that time they've attracted the stunned approval of their peers and left a trail of admiring audiences who've inadvertently turned up early enough to catch their fluorescent, show-stealing, support slots to Milk, Fatima Mansions and Chapterhouse. After witnessing only their third gig ever, Pixie Kim Deal was practically begging to produce their next record and Steve from Ride refused to give a tape of their current one back when Sutherland played it to him in Germany last week.
Their credentials are impeccable. Guitarist Kevin left See See Rider after just two gigs, complaining he was being compromised, singer Russell and bassist Jeremy met while working at Record And Tape Exchange in west London, drawn to each other by an eclectic love of mixed influences that includes Tim Buckley, Laura Nyro, Husker Du and Kris Kristofferson.
"When you first get in a band when you're young you start thinking, "I wanna play like so and so," and if everyone in the band shares the same influences you start sounding like them," explains Russell.
Indeed, the only naff thing about Moose is the story behind how they came to choose such a beautiful name--so naff in fact I can't possibly ruin a good story by letting on.
Although illuminated by the fast evaporating slipstream left by the Valentines, they're not choking on it in a welter of absurdly shallow psychedelics like so many of their contemporaries, but are criss-crossing the vapour trail with the sensual caresses of the Cocteaus and the controlled ambience of AR Kane.
On further investigation of this sort they become paranoid about revealing the presence of an art school background among their number, lest they be lumped in with "that scene." There again, you always knew that something this good couldn't come just from listening to MBV records.
While a guitar band in essence, the music Moose make is so dense as to be almost ambient--the feedback they use tempting you into pretentious music journalism mode. It sounds like wind flapping in the sails of birds taking off from sanctuaries far out at sea. See what I mean?
"We like interesting noises," explains Russell. "It has to fit with mood of the songs and not be feedback for feedback's sake. That's been done. But underneath it all, there's a strong tune.
"The feedback on Kevin's guitar is almost out of control but he harnesses it, and it's really beautiful how he makes it drift in and out. It sounds poncey, but I have his amp behind me when we play live and it just makes me feel really good."
The overall effect even within just 30 minutes of Moose's mantra-like live hypnotic ebb and flow is near exhaustion. Their music doesn't swing, it rolls. Just comes at you fast or slow like heavy, subconscious-laden waves that suck you in with a gentle but relentless force, leaving you drained, overwhelmed, and saturated.
Moose call it a wall of sound but such a one-dimensional cliche ignores the depth of the experience. It's more a tunnel of sound, from which huge breathing, enveloping colorscapes gradually emerge into the light. Accompanied by slides of gang slaying, chopped fingers, berobed Iranian women at pistol practice from the "In Our Time" exhibition of Magnum photographs held at the Hayward last summer, the effect is mesmerising.
"I get a similar feeling off things that have lots of detail and wear you out cos there's so much going on," says Russell. "It should be a big sound--that's what we're going for--to saturate the listener cos, if you're really into music and you listen hard and appreciate it, it will wear you out.
"I'm always fucked after we've played. I feel mad, just drained and lost. I get a bit deranged, really weird."
Moose want to nurture the statuesque immobility of Harold Budd, Michael Nyman and Philip Glass and pare it down to two-and-a-half-minute pieces. All four tracks on their debut EP, "Jack," are haunted by similar desperately lonely, sad memories of doomed romance. From the out-of-my-mind angst of the title track to the meandering R.E.M.-esque eroticism of "Adam and Eve," you're left in no doubt that the perpetrators of these love wars are definitely not still friends.
"They could be personal experiences," Russell fences. "There's a lot of emotion in them and also this undercurrent of bitterness, cos it's not always perfect is it?"
That said, the images and ideas are almost indecipherable with the voice buried so far down in the mix, at times you wonder whether he actually turned up for the session. When it is audible, it crouches down, right inside the song like another secret instrument protected by a thin membrane of low-level feedback.
"There's different ways of baring your soul--you don't have to belt out the lyrics. It's just a reflection of my character. It's something that's deep inside us, something that's real and inside."
It's this gorgeous brutality of fact that tugs at the heart of Moose.
"I get upset by people rather than events,' says Russell. 'People who let you down or who don't question their lives. I cry when I see something done well. It's the happy sad things. Our music is very sad and it makes you dwell on it."
If you could talk to the animals, they'd all say, "Go and see Moose." Don't let them lounge in captivity any longer.
Many thanks to John Wyatt for transcription!