Whitey on the Moon – Special New Band

Whitey on the Moon
Special New Band

Ok, I’ve listened to this album about 20 times, so I should get a sense of it by now, right? Well, no, not really. There are a host of musicians here playing mandolin, accordion, saxophone, cello, trumpet and more in addition to the regular rock-based instruments.

So is it possible to describe the music here? Yeah, but not easily. This band is wacky and unusual, and they have a host of influences that all touch on the songs here. The songs all have your basic rock structure, but there are different things going on. At times they’re almost jazzy, at others heavier, at others mellow and restrained. The vocals are usually buzzed and sounding unusual, quite off-beat. There’s even a variety of samples and recordings thrown in throughout. Sometimes the songs have no apparent structure, and other times they’re quite impressive.

Ok, so let’s try to tear apart these songs. “Good Enough” starts with some heavy bass and almost jazzy rhythm and this cool string thing going on, but the vocals are so odd and disparate to the music, it tends to overwhelm the music. And then the Chipmunks make a guest appearance on vocals (or at least their imitators). Now I think the regular vocals work well on “No Going Back,” a more contemplative number with an improvised feel and a great use of horns. And then, out of nowhere, “I’m Known to Stay at Home” blows me away. This instrumental uses a synthesized drum-beat, samples, and some killer guitar and rock sensibilities to … well, to sound like pretty much nothing I’ve heard before. And while “Better Than Anything” is a good example of where the band’s chaotic, incohesive nature causes the music to become lost in its own mesh of sounds, the next track, “Billy Graham’s Dogs,” despite the silly lyrics, is a thing of beauty, with actual singing and some almost country-ish acoustic guitar. “Broken Record Soul” probably has the most jazzy structure, both from the lightly brushed drums, the strings and horns, and the more laid-back, almost soulful vocals. There’s an almost hip-hop feel to “Poison Arrow,” reminding me of a rougher Soul Coughing. And “9 Cans” finishes things up in a very mellow, very intense instrumental that is downright gorgeous.

The one main thing I notice about this band is how incredibly talented the musicians are. The guitar and bass are crisp and impressive, when you listen hard enough to pick them out. The horns and strings add a nice backing to the whole mix. The vocals, while unusual, are really just the band’s main unique quality. Now if it all wasn’t mixed up like in a blender, creating a very thick, very jumbled sound, the band would likely be more accessible. But maybe accessibility isn’t what they’re going for. Many of these songs sound like they were improvised as the band sat around and jammed, and that’s a pretty interesting sound.

Regardless, this album is really quite good. It may not sound it from my description, but it’s the kind of album that takes about 10 or 20 listens to pick out the subtleties. The music is top-notch, especially in its jazziest moments, and the vocals start to actually work after a while. Really weird but very cool stuff from this Denver band.