Around the time the closeur on Everclear’s So Much for the Afterglow “Like a California King” faded out, I think, rock music lost its visceral focus. A lot of this is understandable, I guess, with things turning to rap, and the nation’s siege under the 9/11 attacks. It seems, though, that for a while, the American man lost his way of truly expressing his identity, which is why we’ve allowed to run rampant all these commercials and movies in which guys just act dumb, erroneously informing the zeitgeist.
The exception to this new-millennium rocking moribundity, however, is America’s own Queens of the Stone Age, from which hails Nick Oliveri, newly dressed Moistboyz bassist. You don’t even really notice the bass playing on this album (though you’d probably notice if it were taken away), but Oliveri’s songwriting presence seems to loom large — the overt, disturbing expressionist themes coming heavily in the homicidal “Paperboy” and homosexual prison rape in “One Cut at a Time.” With Dickie Moist (Dean Ween) more just like a white Chuck Berry, shredding and singing about girls, Oliveri addresses misanthropic men’s issues somewhat like an Eminem in Kurt Cobain’s body: he makes everything overly explicit and outrageous, he writes songs like the world might end tomorrow, giving you the graphic nadir of human frustration, as if the worst has already come. The beauty is that the two “Moistboyz” here fit together like a perfect foil — it’s LIKE Midwestern arena rock stardom meets west coast punk, roughly; but rightly, the arena aspects take the fore, pushing the songs’ anatomy not QUITE into jam territory, but not falling as short most Oliveri bands would, to be sure. And the association with jam and Ween becomes a little clearer here, because at work, there is a love for multiple aspects of classic and folk rock, among these being the three-verse format previously eschewed by neo noise rockers like No Age, and blues. This is bare bones rock and roll, though, music made by men’s men, mythical stuff with the potential to be timeless. And ironically, you won’t even find the synth from Ween’s “Roses are Free,” it’s even more stripped down than that. That’s ok, though, because Dean Ween’s (or Dickie Moist’s) shredding is the main gun.
I had one piece of advice for Mr. Moist, actually: the intro to track 11 “Medusa” sounded in fact like it was an outro to the previous track, “One Cut at a Time.” This would have worked well for several reasons, one being that track 10 is a very epic statement, complete with lewd imagery and overall staggering breadth of human ugliness, and so could use some sort of autonomic denouement, such as an outro, or a fiddle or banjo track following, a la Califone or the Beastie Boys. Maybe they’re not doing the right drugs.
The other is that, related to the fact that this music actually isn’t all that critically acclaimed, it is overall very REGULAR. It’s like Dickie Moist just has such a set m.o. that he’s deaf to urban indie bands… and I realize this is an unorthodox critique, but there has indeed been such a wealth of independent electronic music in the last 10 years that I would like to see SOME influence of it — an intro to a song here and there, some sort of ambience peppered in. But maybe it’s like Mr. Moist says himself: “Walk with me down memory lane and I’ll show you motherfu**ers where I used to stand.” And indeed, it is this very cocksure sneer to androgynous convention, the unflappable consistency of rock’s very raw power, on this album and elsewhere in this guy’s catalogue, that gives this stuff its credibility, listenability and appeal.