Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Mos Generator – Nomads
It’s a little strange to be writing about this album. I say that because I was instrumental in its release . . . I walked along the majority of the roads of its conceptualization, both musically and visually. I labored along with Tony Reed as he crafted this record and, at many times, became a sounding board for his artistic vision. I heard the demos of the album as he was still figuring out if it was even worth being released. I leant an ear to Tony’s frustrations on not getting a particular vocal performance nailed properly. I watched the visual graphics come together to ultimately become, what I feel, an iconic image of a crow perched on a Celtic cross.
But what happened next on this magical musical journey was that the music didn’t just hit me on a physical level. The emotional level that Nomads touched was something awe inspiring, leaving me drenched in sweat as I clung for dear life to the words, the vocal intonations, the musical ebbs and flows, and the overall audio dynamics of this record. I heard to words and immediately knew what Tony was talking about . . . the universal struggle of finding oneself in the miasma of a constantly changing world.
And then, something really unusual hit me with the record. It touched me on a full on spiritual level. Not that I sit around and light candles and spin the shit backwards (though I’m sure that would be an enlightening listen as well), but on a serious interstellar, mind altering, molecular level. The album suddenly made me question things that have happened in my life, because I could so easily relate to the lyrical themes. Those words that I had been hearing for almost a year suddenly were deafeningly loud in the center of my skull. They no longer were just words floating around my office as I tooled around with promotions and correspondence, they became the most important words I had ever heard . . . as if they were written and performed specifically for me.
Y’see, for the past few months, I’ve pretty much considered myself to be a Nomad. Traveling across the West Coast, soul searching and mind tripping, doing that deeper introspective thing to see if I’m where I truly need to be. Short answer: I’m getting there. And I owe a lot of my progress to Mos Generator’s Nomads. Basically, I can relate to what’s going on throughout the entire album. From the moment that Tony Reed howls, “I’ve got a long . . . long way to go. I’m a traveler in time lost in my soul”, from the album opener “Cosmic Ark”, I immediately think, ‘Yeah. Dude’s talking about me.’ Although the song is based more along the lines of the movie Altered States and not Pope’s Soul Quest 2013, the words have a parallel meaning and stay open to the listener’s individual interpretation. Add in the classy and retro leaning soulful guitar work at the solo and the emotion just spills from the speakers.
“So much confusion, I’ve got to take it down. I’m on the edge of losing everything I’ve ever found. I walk through this life time, my head deep down in the sand; I can tell you people that I never do the best I can.” The opening lines from “Lonely One Kenobi” hit me like a ton of bricks as I was driving the I-5 north of Vancouver, Washington on my way to Tacoma. It was the moment that I swear the dude had gone into the future, seen what my life was all about, quickly came back to real time and wrote the song about me. The shit just hits too close to home. The entire song carries along in the same poignant manner, twisting my head into the finest braided pretzel. On top of the heavily introspective lyrics, the music is heavy with a ton of groove. Scooter Haslip and Shawn Johnson hold the back end down superbly; in fact, Shawn’s drum work on this entire album is fiery and as emotional as Reeds lyrics. The song also features one of Tony’s most memorable guitar solos . . . its musical, one of those guitar solos that after you’ve heard it a handful of times, it becomes instantly recognizable and one that you can actually sing along with.
“I stumbled a road with you by my side, and if I can’t make it, you won’t pass me by . . .”, more lyrics (from the track “Torches”) that instantly teleport me back into my own head, and as the song progresses, I realize that I have an entire family of friends who are by my side leading me through the darkness. Powerful in its poignancy, the lyrics rest on a bed of 70’s inspired rock, the guitar reminding me of early Judas Priest or Foghat or someone along those lines. There’s a familiarity to the tone, but still completely unique to Mos Generator. “Torches ahead, leave the darkness behind, to numb the pain of the world passing by.” Brilliant.
“Step Up” throbs and pulses, and explodes with a fury that builds and builds. The tension of this song is classic rock n’ roll. The guitar tones, the drums, the bass, all work in tandem to create a foundation for Reeds plaintive vocal performance. “You better find your way up into the light . . . step out of the darkness” . . . he’s practically demanding that I pick myself out up by my bootstraps, man up and get on with life. “I know you feel lost, but you better find a way.” I’m finding it, brother! I see the light and pushing motherfuckers out of my way to get there! Where “Torches” allowed the listener to be dependent on others for salvation, “Step Up” says enough’s enough, and demands that the listener needs to do things for themselves coz people will eventually get tired of giving charity to those who won’t do for themselves.
“Can’t Get Where I Belong” is one of the more somber tunes on the album, but it’s not depressive or low energy. “Take all my heartache, and turn into love, all that I need right now, is salvation from above. I can’t get where I belong.” Fuck . . . in the context of this song, those lyrics hit like a ten ton weight. The mid tempo riffage plays perfectly with the frustrated soul of the lyrical content. Every time this song comes on, it always seems to fly by. Even at almost five minutes long, the song seems oddly short . . . maybe, it’s because it’s so well crafted? There’s nothing frivolous about it, there’s no wild jam section and it’s actually rather formulaic, but it always seems like it’s over as soon as it begins. It’s a gem.
While the album closer “This Is The Gift Of Nature” doesn’t really have the soulful introspection that that rest of the album does, it’s still a perfect fit and touches on the global consciousness. More akin to the bands earlier doomier material, this track is the longest and possibly the most musically ambitious tune on Nomads. In particular, Johnson’s drumming is straight up clinical on this song . . . the emotion that he throws into his performance reminds me of the times I’ve caught these cats live; thunderous and explosive, truly capturing the passion of the music, and actually propelling it further and faster. Special nod goes to Reeds performance/production as the band comes out of the breakdown . . . the guitars through the break have a clean tone, and just as the band is cresting back into the main groove, as the world comes crashing down, the guitars come out of the solo and kick in with that oh-so perfect tone of distortion.
I wouldn’t normally write about an album that was released through Ripple Music because I feel like there’s a little nepotism there. But it dawned on me at some point that The Ripple Effect was originally created to share, not just the hidden gems in mine and The Big Bald Bastards record collections, but to share how that music made us feel. And considering that Nomads has practically been my soundtrack for almost three months, I see no reason why I shouldn’t sing its praises. Nomads has gotten me through some dark days, rough roads, and hard times, and to all the boys in Mos Generator, I thank you for creating this masterpiece of introspection. I couldn’t find where I belonged, but the torches left the darkness behind . . . and now I’m stepping up into the light.