Dead Moon - Echoes of the Past
Released September 12th
Sub Pop Records
There are times when I question the logic of previous generations’ taste in music. Specifically, the 1980’s. When it became okay to listen to Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Culture Club, the decade sort of took a turn for the worst. Independent bands of that time really kept what would be a scar on the overall timeline of musical progression from cutting too deep. Still, the origins of rock and roll as we know it today, sadly losing the ‘and roll’, are often lost on my ears. No release proves this more than a compilation of the underground smash-hit, Dead Moon. What lacks substance in Echoes of the Past, a 2xCD exceeding a total of 40 tracks, simply reminds me further that garage rock is a lazy genre that took the supposedly signature stylings of The Ramones and ran until it died of exhaustion. Unfortunately, we’re still beating a dead horse because Sub Pop felt the world needed a relatively unimpressive release from a band that sounds as if they shouldn’t have left the local Portland scene.
Echoes of the Past is one of those releases, for those who won’t “feel it”, that will try to make them feel as if they are wrong in their distaste for the album. Having such a solid piece of history for the American rock scene, indeed, attempts to sway you in the direction of the Rolling Stone critics already being inducted into the old folks home, still retaining their appreciation for such outdated material. Do not fret, such stripped-down punk tedium falls short of inspirational for most.
Husband and wife team, Fred and Toody Cole, handle the guitar and bass while Andrew Loomis provides support behind the drums. The trio stood firmly behind minimalist chord progression and a subdued energy that treads dirt on all 49 songs collected from various LPs, EPs, and live recordings. Done in typical DIY fashion, production was not of interest as each track varies in how distant, hollow, muddy, or clean it sounds, leaving both CDs wide open for an unsteady stream of disconnected tracks that will each surprise the listener in how bad the band’s budget must have been to have a song sound this bad. Sure, Fred is about as accomplished at guitar as Kurt Cobain, more rambunctiously so, and is quite overambitious in his pseudo-hard edge, high-pitched vocals, but between your transition from Disk 1 to 2 on your first rotation, you fail to care and are really only listening for another good song besides “Jane” or “Cast Will Change”.
Somewhere on Disk 2, the tension between your ears and your brain subsides and Toody’s vocals loosen each song’s stress. “Area 51” utilizes the country-throated bass player in one of the compilation’s truly progressive tracks. No longer sticking to one riff, you can slightly see what this band got their reputation for. All this with the better introduction of Toody. Though, the promoters seem to disagree as they marketed some off the worse songs on the release as the band’s singles. For instance, “DOA” is sadly a lower-tempo song, as Fred’s vocals would not suggest, forming a sort of audible sleeping pill that doesn’t represent Dead Moon as well as it should. In its place, the live track, “54/40 or Fight”, should have swooped in as a key representation of the band’s energy and unwilling to yield to a pretty melody or a soft chorus.
Unfortunately, the only marketable aspect to this release that I can clearly see is the nostalgia of simpler times. If listening to songs that were probably recorded in one take gets you off, by all means. Otherwise, there are plenty of other bands that incorporate Dead Moon’s brand of sleazy, inbred-punk in much more appetizing ways. So here’s a toast to botched expectations and a migraine beckoning me away from MS Word. May better production and a more sober sound lead you, Dead Moon, into your early sixties and beyond.