Radio Moscow – “Radio Moscow” (2007) — 8/10   Leave a comment

Background:

Not much to tell here, to be frank. Three guys who liked to play the blues came together and formed a power trio after the style of the 60s which came to be known as “Radio Moscow”. This album was their debut.

The album:

The name of the band, the cover art, and the style of music they purport (“Psychedelic-Blues music for your soul”) combine and make them sound like just another indie band that puts out acoustic, chorused tracks and plays exclusively in Pacific Northwest coffee shops. However, just playing the opening track to the album helps one realize a simple fact about this spectacular band.

It’s Cream, no coffee.

Wordplay aside, it’s easy to feel the influence of Clapton’s supergroup in just the opening track. That “wacka-wacka” guitar noise, the colorful psychedelia of the total sound, and so forth ooze sixties so hard they make Bryan Adams wish he’d ONLY written about that decade.

And then the loudness descends, settles down (so to speak), and leads into the first actual track on the album, “Frustrating Sound”. I like the fuzz. Love the fuzz, actually. But it’s just a tad too muffled for my taste. Still, they’re keeping the psychedelic blues train rolling, and anyone would feel like they took a time machine hovercraft thingy to a 1968 pub in southeastern England. “Lucky Dutch”, or “Luckydutch”, as it has often been stylized, is much the same way, with a spectacular set of solos that feel inspired by Page and Beck as much as by Clapton.

“Lick Skillet” is up next, starting with acoustic picks, practically after the style of Leadbelly himself, and a bit of slide. And then it morphs into a godly, heavy blues instrumental (returning to the homey sound of an acoustic now and then). At this point, a fair question would be, “Okay, so we know you guys are good at blues, and I love Cream’s style, or Hendrix’s style, or any blend thereof, as much as the next guy, but what are you bringing to the table? 

This is a fair question. These three performers are spectacular at what they do, they play the blues in a manner it has nary been played in decades–all due respect to The Black Keys and Jack White, I love them, but their style is far from the psych-blues fusion seen rising from grass roots in England in the late 60s. However, for all their songwriting, for all of their impossibly powerful grasp on the blues as it “should be played”, subjectively speaking, what boundary are they breaking? The best I can describe the band to other people is, “Well, they’re basically Cream, if they were a bit heavier. Think Ian Paice instead of Ginger Baker, and keep Clapton, but throw in Hendrix and Beck for good measure.” They are only really describable in terms of past bands they seem to seek to emulate.

Their music is wonderful. This album is what I like in an album. It’s cohesive, and it’s good. But it’s a bit too much like a class activity where you’d have to modify the Mandelbrot set or something to form a different fractal–that is, it’s both too self-similar and too similar to something we’ve already seen or heard. I give the album an 8 for it’s spectacular musicianship, the likes of which I honestly might never hope to emulate, but it falls just short of falling just short of perfection because of a lacking originality. I loved Cream, but I also like to listen to other things.

Addendum: this criticism above isn’t fair to apply to “Ordovician Fauna”. But substitute in any 60s band that experimented in Indian music and it is. Same for “Deep Blue Sea” and any acoustic blues great.

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Posted September 7, 2012 by farglenargle in Uncategorized

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