Musical brothers are not known for getting along. Remember the epic battles between Oasis’s Noel and Liam Gallagher? For that matter, it seems like almost every time families get involved together musically, shit gets fucked up. The Jackson Five were notoriously rumoured to share their sexual partners, and are thought to have been abused by their father, Joe Jackson. Also, speaking of parental abuse, how about the Shaggs? Those talentless (but utterly entertaining) Wiggins sisters were forced to leave school by their father to make a record. And don’t even get me started on the Osmonds.
But what to think about California’s Moore Brothers? Strangely, these siblings lack any juicy gossip … and even if there was any, it would take nothing short of bestiality charges to overshadow their latest release, the sparsely beautiful Murdered By the Moore Broothers.
The Moore Brothers are clearly influenced by 1960s folk music; a muted sadness reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” drifts through tracks such as “Old Friend of Mine,” and the more upbeat tracks, like “I Sing Today,” are reminiscent of songs by an equally sunny Cat Stevens – which is to say, Cat Stevens when he’s not remembering his bout with tuberculosis.
Also thrilling for any fan of older pop music are the traces of Big Star which float throughout the album (if you’re young, I guess we could say Elliott Smith, but shame on you if you’re reading the Modern Pea Pod and have not yet listened to at least #1 Record). But despite the pleasant rainy day music references, there is a haunting otherness to this record that refuses to be referenced as simply a modern reinterpretation of the ’60s pop-folk canon.
Sparse album opener “Wish You’d Say,” for example, with its single perpetual note over plinking piano, can both infuriate the listener and yet keep her hooked at the same time. The lyrics are gorgeous, wistful thoughts on wanting a lover who wants you back, but at the same time, the claustophobia of the instrumentation is a reminder that love is not an all-encompassing landscape, but a silent silver box held between two people. Another key example of Murdered By the Moore Brothers‘ oddness is “At Terror.”
This deceptively cheerful song bends the use of the word “terror,” so that the listener cannot tell whether perhaps the town in which the narrator is searching for a woman is known as “Terror,” or if the murderer implicated in the album’s title is the narrator; maybe he is searching for this woman to murder her, but will only do so when she is completely consumed by terror of him. And then there’s “Star of Confusion,” which curiously ends while the Moore Brothers are still singing.
Yes, this reviewer does understand the concept of a fade-out, but this song actually ends in mid-sentence, which leaves the listener feeling less as if she were listening to a CD of the Moore Brothers, and more as if she had just abruptly left a performance by the Moore Brothers. As if there is a room out there where forever the Moore Brothers will be playing “Star of Confusion,” only to be perpetually walked out upon by their listeners.
There may be a few problems with these touches of the bizarre. Fans of, say, Simon & Garfunkel — sent to this strange record simply because the Moore Brothers are reminiscent of that era of music — will most likely be baffled by songs such as “Now is the Time to Chill” or the aforementioned “At Terror.”
The lyrics, too, have their flaws: most of them are extremely interesting and well-written stories, but there are moments which just strike me as incredibly, unintentionally funny. For instance, in this reviewer’s favorite track, “The Auditorium Birds,” there’s the line “and just like a deaf girl / you’ll be giving me a sign.” It’s a sweet image, but at the same time, it’s a little silly.*
There are other weird imagery-based moments throughout Murdered By the Moore Brothers, which could arguably stand as a tribute to their unique writing abilities; but such reasoning can also diminish the forest for the trees, simply because these odd asides run the risk of engaging the listener with more strength than the songs surrounding them. Despite these misgivings, however, this record is highly recommended for almost all listeners … especially those who like their pop music with a tablespoon of weird.
* This reviewer would like to state that even as a child, she never found deaf people funny. In fact, after learning about Beethoven in elementary music school, she was afraid that someday she too would have to use an ear trumpet.
Reviewed by Megan Giddings