The Movies – In One Era Out the Other

The Movies
In One Era Out the Other

Friday night, and I’m listening to new long players by bands I’ve never encountered. Friday night in a snowy, cold Rochester of mid-December, and then I hear the keyboard introduction to The Movies’ wittily titled In One Era Out the Other – woah! Rochester is still snowy, still freezing, but the music enveloping my room courtesy of Brian Cleary’s keys and Timothy James’ voice on “Right Equipment” warms the heart and mind. With Jessica Gelt and Stevie Treichel supporting the effort on bass/maraca and drums, respectively, The Movies’ opening track on their superb debut album is just the first of 10 glorious post-punk pieces that are relevant, thrilling, and intricate.
The Movies’ lyrics are surreal and ambitious: “If I had the right equipment / I could walk up a wall / I wouldn’t fall / If I had the right equipment / I could take a seat and stand / Fix the feeling man.” James’ high notes and slow guitar fill your head with nostalgia; what you remember is your business. For me, it’s dusk in Penn State dorms with fellow international mates. Memories of snowy central Pennsylvanian nights only sharpen with the second track, “Secretariat.” James sings more deeply with lower tones: “It’s snowing outside again / You think more when you’re thinking.” The Movies slow their deliberate approach even more for “Creation Lake,” and James’ vocals continue to impress, never strained, consistently setting the mood. Cleary’s keyboards emphasize the sharpest line of the song, “There’re 24 parts in a day that divide me from you.”
The band then changes the pace for “Scary Footsteps,” recalling The Wake’s best moments. Treichel and Gelt are particularly effective on “Scary Footsteps,” and James continues to sing quirky lines like “Was that the moon or a streetlight? / When you live life it’s so lifelike.” The early 80s British feel continues with “Don’t Steal My Licks,” a rare up-tempo track with a punch. James and his mates are based in Los Angeles, but his accent often sounds like he’s from the heart of post-punk, across the Atlantic. “Truth Knocking” is spooky and fascinating, the kind of stuff Robert Smith used to write without a sweat. The Movies are not derivative, but they definitely run with ideas influenced at least somewhat by the 80s’ best modern rockers. With more sophisticated drumming and keyboard swirls that conjure up thrilling cinema, James sings, “Said she was a forest and her trees grew over me,” and Gelt contributes sensual backup vocals.
Cutting, persistent keyboards and in-your-face bass lines complement James’ tough singing on “Autograph.” You would be forgiven for mistaking The Movies for Liverpudlians during Thatcher’s early years. There’s definitely an Echo & the Bunnymen sense here. “Pass the Music” is tranquil and atmospheric, definitely late-night fare for a small crowd of good friends and comfortable couches in dim lights. “Midnight Bloody Murder” is notable for its quivering guitars and icy keyboards. The Movies close their outstanding album with the drama that is “A Better Life.” Heavier drumming and bass dominate the first half of the song, while Cleary’s keyboards penetrate your ears with ponderous ambience for the last two minutes. It’s a fitting conclusion to a stylistically diverse and brilliant album, a record of high quality without a weak track. In One Era Out the Other is a strong debut, filled with two- and three-minute epics that suck you in with the first note. The Movies prove that post-punk is alive and well, and they do so with the genre’s best offering in years.