Moonlight Towers, Day Is The New Night

Moonlight Towers, Day Is The New Night

Some days, you just need to forget; well, I do, at least. Lately I’ve been watching the economy and our political arena go batshit crazy almost simultaneously, while keeping a constant eye on the borrowed-from-Hell temperatures and impending maybe-hurricanes out beyond the horizon, and at the same time trying to keep the family afloat, money-wise, hoping we don’t start having rolling blackouts again, and crossing fingers that I can keep my job ’til something (anything) eventually gets better.

And frankly, I’m worn out. I can’t keep freaking out about everything — the economy, Congress, the climate, the bills, cracked foundations, deadlines, shootings, sewage lines backing up, earthquakes, typhoons, civil wars, police beating up protesters — every damn day, ad infinitum. I just can’t.

That’s where Moonlight Towers’ Day Is The New Night comes in. The Austin foursome comes thundering and swaggering in like a lost radiowave from the ’70s, heads full of hazy cheer and fists full of raw-throated rock, and miraculously, I’m transported away from those cares and pains and worries, off to this awesome alternate realm where Everything’s Gonna Be Okay.

From the first fist-pumping roar of opener “Heat Lightning,” I feel amped-up and ready to move, to do something, anything, rather than sit around; Little Steven’s apparently declared the track “The Coolest Song In The World,” and I’ll be damned if it sure sounds like he’s right. The song burns bright and hot, roaring along like some mishmash of early Kings of Leon with vintage Tom Petty, with snarling, bluesy, twinned guitars, great harmony vocals, and those cool, cool Motown horns. The best part is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome — it blazes in, lights the place on fire, sits back to watch it burn for a bare minute, and then politely bows and disappears the way it came.

It’s funny; my initial instinct when I first heard these guys was to tag them as Southern retro-rock and move on, but on closer inspection, that’s not quite right. While there is a rootsy, rural sound to the rock Moonlight Towers makes, it’s less Southern than it is Midwest/Northeast blue-collar rootsiness, more Springsteen than Skynyrd.

“Can’t Shake This Feelin'” keeps the Petty resemblance going, sounding like a track you’d catch on back-in-the-day KLOL and immediately have to crack a smile to. The music’s got rough edges, definitely, but it’s got a wide-grinning, let’s-hammer-back-some-beers warmth to it, too, a vibe that makes the Moonlight Towers guys seem less like Rock Stars and more like genius everymen a la the aforementioned Boss, guys you’d freaking love to hang out with.

The band drops back a bit for “Distant Wheels,” a quieter, more thoughtful track whose gently-rolling keys make me think of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” but even then there’s a weary seriousness to the delivery that makes it feel like more than it might otherwise be. Then there’s the upswing into the seemingly jaunty, jangly tune “The Easy Way Out”; the jauntiness is a feint, mind you, and Moonlight Towers soon step sideways into earnestly hopeful, desperate Springsteen/Steve Earle territory. I swear to God, it’s utterly impossible not to howl along with the chorus when it comes in.

These guys (singer/guitarist James Stevens, drummer/singer Richard Galloway, bassist Jason Daniels, and keyboardist Jacob Schulze) are masters at distilling out the absolute best elements of classic rock and reassembling them into a sound that points backwards but still keeps heading on into the future. On tracks like “What Else Can I Say,” they bring to mind the driving urgency of contemporary folks like The Arcade Fire, with those organ-sounding keys, just-distorted-enough guitars, and unstoppable drums — by the time they band brings the song to its inevitable crescendo, they’re practically exploding with light and fire, an arena-rock band in search of an arena to take over. When Stevens howls, “I’ve got nothin’! I’ve got nothin’!”, bitterly signaling his surrender, I can’t help but bang my head and rock out in place, no matter where the hell I happen to be.

As an old dude who rarely feels like he’s not a kid, even now, I can definitely get behind the sentiment of “Not A Kid Anymore,” to boot, especially given the beautifully basic, raggedy-edged roots-rock rumbling beneath it. Album closer “Black River” works pretty damn great, as well, marrying some awesomely Beatlesque riffs to a pounding, late-’60s rhythm and dirty, dirty guitars. It’s an excellent way to finish things out, one that makes me want to cycle right back around to the beginning and do it all again.

Simply put, Day Is The New Night is the sound of a road-tested, tight-as-hell crew that operates less like a band and more like a freaking machine, barreling through song after song and strewing sharp, sharp hooks and gorgeous melodies along the way, all the while making it look absolutely damn easy.

(Feature photo by Felicia Graham.)

(Chicken Ranch Records --; Moonlight Towers --; Moonlight Towers (Facebook) --
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Review by . Review posted Thursday, October 13th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Moonlight Towers, Day Is The New Night

  1. JUSTINITE on October 27th, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I like your review and this album. You definitly captured the spirit of the band. One slight correction though, Jacob plays lead guitar and keys.

  2. Jeremy Hart on October 27th, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Ah, crud — sorry about that! I’ll try to fix it in the review…

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