The Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past

The Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past

I’ve been looking at this all wrong. My initial instinct, based on the band’s youth and cheery energy as much as on their knack for similarly cheery, shiny-sweet pop songs, is to applaud The Wild Moccasins for finally breaking out of the “kiddie-pop” niche in which they found themselves stuck following the release of their debut, the excellent Microscopic Metronomes EP. When I take a step back, though, that seems awful patronizing, and inaccurate besides.

Honestly, if the Moccasins were ever “stuck” with any kind of made-up genre designation, that was pretty much all in my (and other writers’) heads. As becomes more and more apparent each time I hear or see them, The Wild Moccasins didn’t need to grow up or become less “kid”-like — they were there to begin with and were busily honing their already-considerable songwriting skills, instead, to a point where they’re startlingly good, far, far better than I think a lot of people have given them credit for being.

If you doubt it, take Skin Collision Past as proof. The band hasn’t foregone the gorgeous melodies for which they’re known, mind you, but there’s a whole other layer to this release, one that’s been evident in their live shows but never really showed through in recorded form ’til now. Skin Collision Past is a remarkably sophisticated release, demanding headphones to hear all the subtle shifts and sounds bubbling around in there. Take the title track, where the guitars pull a bait-and-switch, at first coming off as just inoffensively jangly and dance-y while under the surface, they’re a ridiculously nimble and varied. The music as a whole is pretty and sweet, but there’s a much more serious, darker vibe to the song than to anything else I’ve heard previously from the band.

Throughout the album, it’s the sweet, boy/girl duet vocals of frontpeople Cody Swann and Zahira Gutierrez that take center stage, the pair serving as the focal point around which the surprisingly layered pop tunes swirl and crash. At their absolute best, they make me think of later-period Anniversary, which is no bad thing — like that band, the vocals traded back-and-forth sound like a genuine conversation more than anything else, and it works beautifully.

Then there’s “Late Night Television,” with that awesomely grand-sounding, almost theatrical intro/break bit, where Andrew Lee’s guitar sounds ready to break skyward and crack open the clouds before coming back down to anchor co-vocalist frontpeople Cody Swann and Zahira Gutierrez as they proclaim that no, they’re definitely not going to hell. “Psychic China” hits an almost Northern Soul note, at least in the rhythm department, with the driving drumbeat and Gutierrez’s impassioned voice driving the chorus along full-tilt like all my favorite Belle & Sebastian songs. “Calendar” lives in similar territory, bumping along with a heart made of deep-feeling soul and a rhythm that could’ve come right off The Supremes’ “Don’t Hurry Love.”

Earlier on, “Cake” slows things down somewhat, a gently soulful track that almost could be a song swiped from fellow Houstonians The Tontons. Where The Tontons would probably drop into something funky and dark, though, the Moccasins opt to swing and sway along at a disarmingly genteel pace, as they do with closer “Zylophone,” where Gutierrez shrugs and declares that she doesn’t mind what name she gets stuck with. And hey, maybe that’s the key, here — The Wild Moccasins are perfectly content to do what they want to do, not what bonehead reviewers like me think they should be doing.

If that’s the case, more power to ’em. So long as they can keep creating beautiful, intricate (yet not baroque, thankfully), smart pop songs like the ones on Skin, hell, I’ll be smiling all the way.

[The Wild Moccasins are playing their tour kickoff show 7/2/10 at Walter's, along with The Eastern Sea & The Wiggins.]
(self-released; The Wild Moccasins -- http://www.myspace.com/thewildmoccasins)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, July 2nd, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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One Response to “The Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Tonight: The Wild Moccasins Tour Kickoff (Reviewed!) + Muhammad Ali + Spain Colored Orange + The Watermarks + More on June 22nd, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    […] Past, for quite a while now and have finally gotten ’round to reviewing the damn thing right over here — trust me when I say that it’s phenomenal, miles and miles beyond Microscopic […]

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