Warts & All, vol. 5 – moe.
At this point, one could view the title of moe.s sanctioned live series, Warts and All, merely as a formality. Although suitable in the context of a live album, it ultimately proves nothing more than a clever saying. This release, like the four installments before it, captures the band in raw form, sans any studio polishing or fine-tuning. Any warts, however, are few and far between.
This show, recorded February 22, 2005 at the Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines, Iowa, marked a crest in moe.s musical growth. The group continues to hone its two-guitar synthesis of rock, country and folk. But, even at the beginning of 2005, its sound feels like it has come of age. Early ’90s chestnuts (Yodelittle, Y.O.Y.) that debuted at Buffalo college parties and dive bars teeter on the sublime. The 30-minute jam in the former quickly takes the shape of a weird space-rocker. At its creative peak, layered guitar pedal and Moog tones intermingle, setting a dark mood, easily deceiving the ear. These sonic drifts produced by moe.s three front men Chuck Garvey, Rob Derhak and Al Schnier exist in a world where a bending guitar note drifting off into oblivion can pass off as a synthesizer, and vice versa. Descending back to Earth, the band probes less spacey, groove-based territory where experimental leanings give way to primal rhythmic structures. Percussionist Jim Loughlin supplies the most texture, syncing up woodblock patterns between the beats.
When not exploring the cosmos, the group focuses on its ever-improving songwriting craft. The band fluidly runs through both road-tested anthems (Spine of a Dog, Plane Crash, Captain America) and the very greenest of its catalog (a second time played, but surprisingly tight, She). The bands conversational style allows its members to speak freely, but each does so in his own way always at the appropriate moment. As reflected in the bands cohesive play, each member seems happy inside his own skin, as aware of his individual role as he is content to fill it.