Moscow: Hell Fire (self-released)
Stoke punks Moscow mix garage rock with a touch of the gothic. Glenn Airey likes what he hears.
Moscow. A name synonymous with the great upheavals of history like Napoleon’s humiliating retreat in 1812 and the Bolshevik Revolution. Switching things around it might seem unlikely that there’s a rock band by the name of Stoke on Trent diligently rehearsing beneath the colourful domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral, but nothing can be taken for granted in this most enigmatic of capitals. In any case, Vladamir Putin, famously not big on punk rock, would no doubt have the godless degenerates banged up in a gulag and the keys throw in the Volga before you could say Pussy Riot. All things considered, we’ve got the best deal from this imaginary cultural exchange. Deep in the Potteries, four wayward dissidents called Moscow have just released their debut EP ‘Hell Fire.’
Pretty much the perfect debut it is, too. Five strong songs, assured playing and a powerful production that belies its relatively low budget: Universal Thrift Club is the highly-regarded but affordable studio that spawned this monster and with results like this they won’t be running short of work. It takes a great band to make a great record however, and Moscow brings together four seasoned musicians to produce the best material they’ve been involved with.
Moscow keep the basics basic but don’t shy away from drama. How could they, fronted by Nic Andrews, a man born to proclaim from the stage? Or the balcony. Or the top of a speaker stack. You know the sort of thing. So tracks like The Night and Cold Hands are underpinned by a muscular garage clatter that still leaves plenty of room for a euphoric chord change here, a rousing, moshpit-friendly chorus there. Plus a lyrical drift towards the dark and demonic, as their titles might suggest. The net result of all this brutality and grandeur is pleasingly reminiscent of the better first-wave goth bands. They used to have a right laugh, believe it or not, before the genre put its clumpy boots on and got subsumed into grunt-metal.
This Muscovite goth wears an elegant frock coat, perhaps a satin top hat too, and is never caught without a monkey’s skull atop his cane. Beneath this civilised garb, though, beats an unmistakable rock’n’roll heart, placing Moscow within an illustrious lineage leading from The Damned to the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, taking in mavericks like Alien Sex Fiend and several former employers of Kid Congo Powers, all acts who’ve flirted with the theatrical, even melodramatic, side of punk without sacrificing their primitive bite. If you’re looking for a song title to encapsulate this blending of the rebellious and the mystical, then you could do far worse than Lizard Lords. I’m guessing this is an attack on our royal, reptilian overlords as identified by Coventry City’s former goalkeeper. Whatever happened to singing about your girlfriend?
Don’t Look Back, easily the most expansive track here, stretches the band further and is fluid enough to put me in mind of a different post-punk strand: that pared-down dancefloor experimentation, perfected by Talking Heads and A Certain Ratio, that bled out sideways until even comparative rock classicists like the Bunnymen got the funk. Indeed, Nic’s vocal on this track achieves a range and richness to compare with Mac in his prime, jostling for position with Matt Hicks’ stabbing guitar. Meanwhile, the rhythm section is locked into a groove so tight you’d like to see them explore this direction a bit more. Unlike the tentative post-punk pioneers referenced earlier, Moscow came of age well after the rock/dance barriers had fallen, and it shows.
An enticing glimpse of things to come, then, but also a fully-formed success in its own right, I’d urge you to check this out sharpish.
Listen to it via the widget above or go here to both listen & download it for your chosen price. I know you’ll do the decent thing. Music like this takes time and money to create, even for the thrifty.