The Moondoggies’ newest release, Tidelands, sounds very different from their 2008 debut, Don’t Be A Stranger.
Relax. The band hasn’t gone metal or hip-hop or anything like that. The diffrentation between the two come much more from maturation and the ability to focus more on the product rather than survival more than any radical change in sound.
“On our first album, we crammed everything on there, because we didn’t know if we were ever going to have another opportunity,” bandleader Kevin Murphy states on the band’s Hardly Art artist page. “This time I really wanted it to make sense as an album. There was a theme, and I felt that honing in on certain songs and a particular feeling made it a more interesting record, and not just Don’t Be A Stranger, Part 2.”
Murphy (lead vocals, guitars), along with members Robert Terreberry (bass), Caleb Quick (keyboards), and Carl Dahlen (drums), manage that feat almost too well on Tidelands. The musicianship here belies the fact that this is Seattle-based outfit is roughly two years old recording its sophomore album.
To murder one misconception out of the gate, Seattle doesn’t always mean “grunge”. The Moondoggies layer Tidelands with more mellow arrangements and rhythms, letting the vocals and wistful solos by Murphy do much of the talking. For the most part, the balance works well, setting the Moondoggies apart from your typical MOR-act that VH1 or most “Hot adult contemporary” FM stations love to tout these days. There’s talent here that’s not too slick, not over-produced, and that doesn’t sound like everything else out there. Tidelands puts that on display for all to see, and does so with alarming confidence.
The record does almost veer in to territory too maudlin for most, especially in tracks like “Uncertain” and “Empress of the North”. These are times that the band’s desire to sound more mature and cohesive over-saturates the listener with gloomy reflection. Murphy and company, however, don’t make a record so depressing that it can’t be enjoyed. Other songs, such as “Lead Me On” and “Down The Well” (with an excellent guitar solo helping to sell it’s message of survival), balance out the blackness with moments of fun strength.
While recording Tidelands, the band used tactics such as multiple readings of songs using different vocal and instrumental arrangements until the right balance was struck. This approach to craftsmanship, along with the pressure of survival making way to a real creative flow, helps Tidelands rise above the pack. The songwriting itself could use a boost of Zanax at times, but not so often that it kills the record or even the band’s sound. Overall, Tidelands isn’t the perfect sophomore record, but it certainly makes its mark as an excellent effort by a band that, should they continue down this road, shouldn’t have to worry about career longevity for much longer.