Roky Moon & BOLT!, American Honey

Roky Moon & BOLT!, American Honey

Let me be up-front about it: if you’re already familiar with Roky Moon & BOLT!, the band’s new full-length, American Honey, is going to sound, well, pretty familiar. Kind of.

Looking at the track listing for the album, I’m seeing a lot of songs I’ve heard in some form or another previously: “Shooting Star” was on the band’s first self-titled full-length, as were “The Lioness” (which I think here merges with “Lives Like Ours,” also on that album), “The Pony Man,” Honey lead single “Monster” (then called “Growin’ Up Fast”), and a quasi-version of “Avory the Strange” (then called “Go Wake Up Avory”), and “Hot Saturday Night” was not only on Roky Moon & BOLT! but also on the band’s very first two-song EP, back in 2009, when they just went by “BOLT.”

I’m not pointing this out to knock down the band, mind you; quite the opposite. Listening to the songs on American Honey after hearing those earlier, embryonic songs, I feel like I’ve been privileged to watch/listen as the band’s grown, spread its wings, and gotten stronger and tighter than I’d ever guessed they would. The songs Roky Moon and his crew had previously recorded sound fuller here, more fleshed-out and amped-up than anything they’ve been before now.

Simply put, American Honey feels like it’s very nearly the culmination of the band’s evolution, from a scrappy, rough-edged gang of pseudo-punks trying their collective hand at glam to a full-on realization of frontman Roky Moon’s starry-eyed rock opera vision, complete with backup singers, horns, and a huge, huge sound that makes you want to dive head-first into the strange, Ziggy Stardust-like world of the mysterious Avory. I’ve loved what the band’s done before, but this, folks, is a phenomenal album.

Roky Moon & BOLT! are on fire from the very second the galloping, boogie-woogie drums and yowling backing vocals of “Shooting Star” comes thundering in, paired with Moon’s shuddering/shaking, Elvis-gone-Martian vocals and Cassie Hargrove’s Jerry Lee Lewis-gone-Frankenfurter keys. Then there’s the ass-shaking blast of “I Want To Be Free,” which is near-impossible to listen to without grinning stupidly, and a brand-new version of the aforementioned “Hot Saturday Night” that practically explodes, raw and fiery and all about partying in the Houston summer heat like you just don’t give a damn about anything else.

While I do love the older songs, though, I have to confess that it’s the newer songs that really, truly blow me away, like on “Unhinge the Youth,” where Moon and company arc-weld Bowie sheen to an awesomely poppy, Cheap Trick-y chorus and this ass-kicking, almost prog-rock break bit. Holy fucking wow. After that comes “Watch That Man,” a song that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on some obscure classic rock station, all dirty-edged guitars, fist-pumping choruses, and downhome horns.

At the tail end of the album, then, there’s closer “When the World Was Changed,” which kicks all that glam stuff to the curb in favor of a heart-cut-wide-open, writhing-onstage ’50s doo-wop stomp, complete with “whoa-oh-oh” vocals, mournful horns, Northern Soul drums, and Moon’s tormented (but defiant) howl. It’s seriously one of the best, most heartwrenchingly excellent songs I’ve heard in a while, and it makes me wish I could somehow witness a perfect-match triple bill with these guys, Glasvegas, and The Raveonettes.

Those are the high points, but truthfully, there’s not a bad moment on American Honey, something made even more incredible by the fact that the band recorded the whole damn thing in a single freaking day, live, just blazing through the songs like they knew ’em backwards, forwards, and sideways. “Monster” is rough and massive, melancholy like the song’s protagonist, “The Lioness” is delicate and strange, morphing towards the end into a flawless, pounding rave-up, and “The Pony Man” gives guitarist Aaron Echegaray a chance to stretch out some, ripping out monstrous, Page-ian riffs that feel like they can’t be contained within your skull.

If you don’t ever get to see Roky Moon & BOLT! live, well, it sucks to be you — take a listen to American Honey, though, and once you’ve picked your face up off the floor, you’ll have at least a little bit of a clue what it’d be like.

[Roky Moon & BOLT! are playing their CD release 7/30/11 at Fitzgerald’s, along with sIngs, Tax the Wolf, Fat Tony, listenlisten, Young Girls, Llorna, & JW Americana, and again 8/6/11 at Cactus Music.]
(ZenHill Records -- http://www.zenhillrecords.com/; Roky Moon & BOLT! -- http://rokymoonandbolt.com/; Roky Moon & BOLT! (Facebook) -- http://www.facebook.com/rokymoonandbolt)
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Review by . Review posted Wednesday, July 27th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “Roky Moon & BOLT!, American Honey

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Coming Up: Roky Moon & BOLT! Releases Their New Album, This Saturday on July 29th, 2011 at 1:51 am

    […] — “Unhinge the Youth,” in particular — knock me down flat. Look on over here for a full […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Kings of Leon Rescheduled + Finnegan + Skate & Rock + Roky Moon & BOLT! + Omotai + Julydoscope + More on July 30th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    […] incredible. That’s a guarantee, right there; there is no way it can’t be awesome. See here for my review of great, great new full-length American […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Tomorrow: ZenHill Records Night at Fitz on December 3rd, 2013 at 10:20 am

    […] by the most recent releases from several of the rest, namely Roky Moon & BOLT!’s stellar American Honey, the Sideshow Tramps’ bone-rattling Revelator, and, most recently, the Backtones’ […]

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