moe.: The Conch

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By Brian Heisler

moe.‘s albums seem like one long, smooth story. Each album holds its own but seems to pick up where the previous release left off. Not to say there aren’t surprises but when you crack open a new moe. album you know what you’re going to get – smooth melodic choruses, funky, popping bass, extended jams, quirky lyrics, and a bunch of classic Al Schnier and Rob Derhak vocals, with a sprinkling of Chuck Garvey vocals. That’s why we keep coming back for more.

The Conch is comprised almost entirely of songs moe. has been playing live for years. It arrives after the longest drought between albums for moe. [Wormwood was released February, 2003] and was created at five separate recording locations. The title track is a 54-second piece that at first seems like an intro to “Tailspin,” but is actually a connector for various elements here. While it is a short piece, “The Conch” builds to a screaming finale much like the last note of a jam.

“Tailspin,” contains all the makings of a classic moe. song, moving from hard and fast to soft and flowing, and back again. In the middle, less than intelligent clips of President George W. Bush are intermingled, reflecting the tailspin of his career and results of his decisions.

Jim Loughlin‘s marimba has never been more present than the first 90-seconds of “Wind It Up.” A great live song, “Wind It Up” is the shining moment of this album. As previously mentioned, The Conch was recorded in many different locations and one of those locations was live at the State Theatre in Portland, ME on June 11, 2005. The crowd continued to sing the chorus, “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side,” during set break, which resulted in the track, “Y Eaux Massa.” Whether or not the band had a name for this part of the song already is unknown. “Eaux massa” means “water massed” in French, which may be inspired by what happened in New Orleans two months later.

“Down Boy,” has some of the best lyrics the band has penned. The album’s title may be a reference to the classic novel Lord Of The Flies, in which a conch is used as a form of power. And sure enough, “Lord Of The Flies” is among the lyrics found on “Down Boy.”

Of the new songs, only “Another One Gone” and “MacIntyre Range” are full-length. A dark tune, “Another One Gone” uses unusual percussion as Derhak discusses loss and waste through suicide, citing Kurt Cobain’s death. “MacIntyre Range” is an acoustic instrumental with hints of cello and upright bass. This gives the album a new direction at the end, much in the same way Phish‘s “The Inlaw Josie Wales” does on Farmhouse.

There’s often something about the punch a good band brews that seems to diminish as they get older, but moe. brings it on The Conch just as they did on Fatboy in 1992. Another Bush war later and they’re still leaving it all on stage, or in the studio in this case.

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