Decades of developments in independent music have led to a moment where stay-in-your-lane genre albums don’t seem nearly as common anymore. New bands emerging in the past decade have grown up in an age where file-sharing and streaming access to anything and everything has made for an endless frame of reference. Where once bands’ musical influences were limited to their own record collections and isolated, curious tweaks, it’s much easier to connect musical dots on any music released circa 2018, simply because it’s so much easier to hear everything. But there’s an interesting side effect of being able to remove barriers to discovery. Those same bands who have the benefit of decades of music at their disposal are also putting those influences back together in interesting and unusual ways.
Los Angeles trio Moaning have the DNA of any number of ’70s post-punk and ’80s college rock bands coursing through their veins, from the glide-and-whoosh of My Bloody Valentine to the dark pulse of Joy Division and the noise wall of Big Black. They’re far from the first band ever to combine goth-rock with shoegaze (see: A Place to Bury Strangers), nor are they even the first band from L.A. to do so (see: onetime fellow Sub Pop signees Plexi), but Moaning feel contemporary in their own blend on their self-titled debut. The electronic pulse of “Don’t Go,” for instance, is more unabashedly pop than anything A Place to Bury Strangers released on their debut album, and with a dancefloor-friendly rhythm at that. The massive wall of guitars tell one story, while the rhythm section tells another, but they find a perfect fusion all the same.
What separates Moaning from middle-of-the-road nu-gazers such as Diiv or Wild Nothing is their ability to more ably wield towering guitar noise and a more attractive gloom. The band takes to pop melody quite naturally on “Tired,” but it’s swathed in some gauzy, Kevin Shields-style effects, a triumphantly noisy wall backing the mournful chorus, “It’s all gone/It caught fire/It’s all wrong/And I’m so tired.” The group delves more directly into darkly sexy goth-rock on the wicked grooves of “The Same,” and “Useless” juxtaposes hard-driving noise-rock with a frustrated defeatism: “There’s no point to any of this.” Every moment on the record is seamlessly performed, powerfully executed and rocks hard, all within a digestible three-minute pop song structure.
Moaning are without a doubt the sum of their influences, which is easy to get behind, given that their influences are some of the best bands of the last 40 years. Yet Moaning’s never a carbon copy of any of them, instead creating a streamlined fusion that plucks from the best of alternative music while maintaining a pop sensibility that even a band like My Bloody Valentine often sidestepped. Moaning’s debut album is as enjoyable as debut albums come, while leaving a lot of room to build.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.