By Dennis Cook
Where you been all my life, Dead Moon? Your dirty ass rock 'n' roll makes me want to buy you 10,000 beers and pay your electric bill for a year just to see what ramshackle glories would come to life. Your snot-smeared, grease slappin' garage antics are everything right and true about this damn genre. So, why'd you have to go away just when I found you?
Oregon's Dead Moon is a grind house hard trio led by Fred Cole (guitar, vocals) and wife Toody Cole (bass, vocals) with drummer Andrew Loomis. A 20-year plus ultra-underground cult, Dead Moon finds their widest audience ever on this all-killer, no-filler 2-disc Sub Pop anthology. After decades of releasing a small mountain of vinyl on their own Tombstone label, they're garnering attention only a tastemaker like Sub Pop can provide. And what do they do? They pull up stakes and retire in an unexplained flash. If, like me, you'd never experienced their howling magic before this set, you should be sad we missed these mules while they were still kicking against the pricks.
With evil eyes and a noose around their neck, Dead Moon cranks out a grand hodgepodge made from the sharp detritus of The Stooges, Flamin' Groovies, The Sonics, Billy Childish, Iron Butterfly, and every obscure nut job that made it onto the famous Nuggets collections. This is raw, ceaselessly passionate music, pure in a way not much can claim anymore. There's no poses, no conceptual conceits. It is the essence of punk with much better musicianship. Fred and Toody's voices have the impassioned sincerity of zealots like Patti Smith and Jim Carroll. When they turn up the amps to 11 it's like a wilder version of High School Confidential, where the inherent freedom inside this music makes the kiddies lose their fuckin' minds.
Unlike most stuff labeled "garage rock" this has a lot of curves. The slow numbers remind one of the Beau Brummels and the mid-tempo boozers have the ballsy stomp of Bon Scott-era AC/DC. Everything is tangled up in an intensity that can't be faked. Dead Moon clearly believes in the promise of rock's liberation that filthy old Chuck Berry and needle-scratched Lou Reed once yelped about. Unlike those guys, Dead Moon kept that strangled soul cry close, never trying to soothe its itch from their tired throats. They get what a barkin' shithole life can be and by Zeus they scream it out with startling clarity. They understand that music may be the only way through our own darkness and maybe, just maybe, might point the way towards something even the most cynical motherfucker can believe in.
Every one of Echoes of the Past's 49-tracks has a right here, right now immediacy. On "Poor Born," Fred Cole sings, "I been screaming at the top of my lungs since 1965!" Maybe that kind of truth telling wears a man down over time. Or maybe they figured they'd said all they had to say. Maybe it's that collections like this one have the feel of a headstone on a band's accomplishments. Based on their warm but vague goodbye on their website we're not likely to know why Dead Moon is no more. What we do have is this sensational, life affirming, mud huckin', delirious goodness. Even if you'll never get to watch them chop at the bewildering universe in some muggy little club, you cheat yourself if you miss out on this inspired swansong.
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