moe.: Sticks and Stones

By: Bill Clifford

Maybe it was the New England water. Sticks and Stones (released January 22 on Fat Boy Records), the eighth full-length studio recording from New York-based progressive rockers moe., has been released a year and a day after 2007's The Conch, which was four years in the making. Possibly, it was the environment. Sticks And Stones was written and recorded in a secluded cathedral in the Berkshire Mountains. Or perhaps, it was returning to work with trusted veteran producer John Siket (Phish, Sonic Youth). Regardless, the result is moe.'s most concise and well-written album to date.

Fans expecting sloppy leftovers or a redux of The Conch are in for a welcome surprise. Shortly after their Labor Day weekend festival, MoeDown, the quintet holed up in the cathedral and wrote eight brand new songs and reworked two older tunes, "Conviction Song" and "All Roads Lead To Home." Gone are Wormwood's between song instrumental interludes and the audience banter of The Conch. Furthermore, since these tunes were written and recorded in just three weeks without moe.'s usual road testing, there is less improvisation and soloing on these raw, intuitive pieces. In this case, less is definitely more.

Opener "Cathedral" succinctly sums up the band's state of mind while recording. Dramatic, tensely sung verses like "Tunnel vision/ For a hundred thousand miles/ Indecision/ Focused as a tiny child," are set free with the bright, wide open chorus. Lush string orchestration, including mandolin and violin, back the electric and acoustic guitars of Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier. The title track is more straight-ahead rock, where crisp drumming and bombastic bass combine with dual electric guitars (think ‘70s Rolling Stones) propel this fun, upbeat rocker. "Sticks and Stones" fades into the ominous "Darkness." Beginning at a snail's pace, moving in slow motion, the song's protagonist pretends the situation at hand is not as bad as it seems. Jim Loughlin's twinkled mallat kat, an electronic vibraphone, playfully picks the tempo up as bassist Rob Derhak bellows out the chorus; "Who you going to blame when the rain comes in?" Building to the second verse, the fear in his voice rises, "Every tub, every bucket, every cup and every bin/ All filled to the top, overflowing at the brim." The slow motion verses and the angry chorus volley back and forth, broken up by an innocent "la la la la la" bridge. This song grows more eerie with repeated listens, too.

Guest string player Allie Kral (Cornmeal) adds sorrowful, weeping viola on Schnier's somber folk ballad "Conviction Song" and the chilling, mournful "September." Schnier has a knack for writing elegant, cinematic songs that make the listener feel a part of the scene. The playful, upbeat instrumental "ZOZ" (or "Zed Nought Zough,") features more mallat kat from Louglin and tight, thumping rhythm from Derhak and drummer Vinnie Amico.

Derhak's midlife crisis surfaces on new surefire moe. classic, "Deep This Time." Amid Garvey's wailing, screaming lead guitar and Schnier's hold 'em steady harmonies, he faces youthful abandon, singing, "Looking at forty, acting like a child." By the third verse, he's questioning marital bliss more directly: "If I were a betting man/ I bet you would try/ Living the single life/ Just one more time/ Getting so fed up/ With all the lows and highs." Nadine LaFond (Swampadelica) adds sweet harmony vocals, while on "All Roads Lead to Home" her soprano runs alongside Garvey's tenor on this studio debut for Garvery's rarely performed song from 2005. The three part harmonies, rounded out by Derhak's baritone, ride a warm Southern California feel and dual guitars that would make this song a radio staple in another era. The album closes with the rollicking, swampy blues of "Queen of Everything" and the foot stomping good time Celtic sing-along of "Raise a Glass."

The ten tunes on Sticks And Stones are short and to the point, with the focus on moe's skill as songwriters rather than their collective and considerable musical prowess. Working with Siket, they've managed to keep the flow of previous efforts minus the between song antics. As any moe.ron will tell you, the true test of any moe. studio album is how it goes over in front of a crowd, and this recording has several tunes bound to develop into future live classics.

JamBase | New York
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[Published on: 2/9/08]

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moethug starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 01:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


i didnt know rob was going thru a midlife crisis...sumone wana fill me in

tourfan Sat 2/9/2008 02:21PM
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Hey Moethug,

I don't think the author of the review is necessarily implying that Rob was litterally going through a mid-life crisis. Rather, I think he was merely interpreting the lyrics of the song. Just my thoughts. Great review.

crescentvale starstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 04:17PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


This new cd from moe. has the soul from the church they recorded it in. Its a great idea to bring in the viola in from Cornmeal. There are come photos n reviews of both bands at my jambase. Put on some Sticks n Stones n enjoy!

crescentvale Sat 2/9/2008 04:18PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


some ^^ not come, lol

fson starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 08:09PM
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great album

rob is the shit

mid life crisis my ass

groovatronics starstarstarstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 08:43PM
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why didn't anyone tell me moe. put out anotehr record?? thank you jambase.

and hey any of you who have it, how is it? i'd love to see where there going.

River starstarstar Sat 2/9/2008 09:02PM
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theres some good on the new record. personaly i think its just goina sit on my shelf for awhile i wasnt to imprested but then again i have only listind to it one time so far...

TSGP starstarstarstar Sun 2/10/2008 04:27AM
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Yeah, Ive only listened to it twice so its slowly growing on me. Not the same feel as their previous albums, but definatly this is moe. adding another chapter to their wonderful career. See you at the Calvin.

Woody starstarstar Sun 2/10/2008 05:57PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


its a creeper

schofizzl Mon 2/11/2008 01:06AM
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listened to the whole cd for the first time on the way to their show at the pageant in stl, loved the cd and the show and the new songs are great in the live setting.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 04:51AM
Show -4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
stoops starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 07:04AM
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usually i would be skeptical of a cd described as "concise", and sumise that this would actually mean short. in this case clifford is dead on; compared to previous moe, these songs are clearly brisk but they convey much in their shorter duration. this album will just continue to pad the options for moes already badass live repetoire...and that they could add 10 such cool songs inside a year from the last additions speaks to the endless limits of the fellas creativity.

i've already seen one show on this tour(philly) and the "september" and "darkness" were drastically extended via improv, extremely enjoyable, and i'm sure will only get better with more practice. i can't wait for dc and i'm considering norfolk!

Smittea starstarstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 09:10AM
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This disc did require a couple of turns to appreciate it. One thing I really liked was how short almost all the songs were. Really?!? Yeah, it was kind of refreshing that they were short and it opens up the possibility to taking some of them to new and different live jams almost every time. I love moe.'s protracted jams, but they are also masters of songs that would work quite nicely on the radio. This album reminds me a lot of Dither. It took a couple of spins for that one to be appreciated as well. This is a good one - recommended!

fizikstps starstarstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 09:51AM
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good album, definitely not my favorite moe. album by far but it's something new from them so thats cool. where are the atlanta dates for this tour!?

longhriv starstarstar Mon 2/11/2008 08:30PM
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definitely mellow but not bad. Personally i like it faster. queen of everything takes the cake for the album.

schofizzl Mon 2/11/2008 09:14PM
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Darkness live is awesome!

URTH2URTH starstarstar Wed 2/13/2008 09:59AM
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not sure i would call this their most 'concise and well written album yet'. it is a good album, though i only like about 5 songs on it, which is only half the album. they seemed to have focused more on vocals, not many guitar solos, the instrumental track is weak too, the xlophone doesn't cut it for me onthat track. there are some great moments on the cd though, but gimme no doy or tin cars over this radio friendly stuff all the 'jam bands' seem to be doing lately. bought ALO's new cd, same deal. only 10 tracks, about half of which are good (when they're good, they;re really good though), radio friendly, short songs. gimme fly between falls over it anyday. there are def. som good parts to it though too, i'd rather here some funky jammy stuff than soft rock.

Ladoo starstarstar Sat 2/16/2008 02:39PM
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As is with most albums that I really enjoy, this one several listens to really appreciate. Yes, the songs are radio friendly/shorter than what is typical for moe. However, like others have said, am interested in hearing them in a living setting. Several of these songs offer opportunities for creative exploration. I haven't gotten to see moe. in a couple of years. I will make it a point to catch them they next time they come my direction.

lovemusicfood star Sun 2/24/2008 05:29PM
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Hopin' this is just 1 chapter in their book as a band. Other than the instrumental track I can't even listen to this album. I feel like it is the type of music that I ran from when I found moe. in the first place in the late 90's. Oh well. Lot's of other good music in the universe.