We can talk about it all we want, but the truth is, none of us really KNOWS what it’s like to be a musician and achieve the type of fame that would have made you widely known before the Internet era. One thing’s for sure, anyway: it would involve a he** of a lot of touring, which has been said to be a royal pain in the a**, from a lot of people I’ve heard.
No matter the reason, Moth in 2002 seemed to taste just a speck of commercial success and then decide it wasn’t for them, either for professional or artistic reasons. I remember hearing “I See Sound,” the lead single off their album from that year Provisions, Fiction and Gear (in case you can’t tell from that intensely ironic album title, the members of Moth by this time were rather old, for having just issued their first successful single), on one of the late night shows and thinking, wow, that rocked, and was pretty unpretentious, unlike anything else that seemed to be happening in rock in ’02. I think I first saw the video for The White Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl” about two weeks later, for the record, and would first hear The Strokes about a couple months later. But for now it was Moth, who seemed to channel in with the force of Green Day in their prime but take the lyricism in a different direction, away from the casual humoristic quips on social situations and toward a psychedelic, metaphorical turn, which, as a child of hippies, I could definitely “dig.”
I think I sort of always liked Moth but discarded them for a decade and a half, as typically in my hometown people are more interested in how much weed Snoop Dogg smokes than in anything relating to the music itself. It just seemed like an uphill battle. Plus Moth were light years divorced from the indie crazy I’d delve into later that decade of The New Pornographers, Sufjan Stevens and stuff like that.
Well something about this Spotify age today just seems perfect for these little pocket-rocket rock albums, whether it’s Weezer’s Green Album, Head Automatica’s Popaganda, another dark horse favorite of mine Jane’s Addiction’s last album The Great Escape Artist (which I believe received an “F” in the A/V Club, amusingly enough), and my little special project of today, Moth’s Provisions, Fiction and Gear. Whereas I have not heard Moth’s other albums yet, to this date. Part of me is sort of afraid of finding out that they really rock and that this Cincinnati act got criminally passed over for nigh on a decade for sociological reasons alone.
Starting the album off with the commercially venerable “I See Sound,” there’s a couple of things that might throw you off, sure, like the fact that the introductory guitar riff is SORT OF a ripoff of Blink’s “What’s My Age again?” or the kind of emo-y sounding tone in Brad Stenz’ voice (a fact that probably worked to their advantage around this time of Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional, et. al.) Well, just keep listening. Just do it. I said to. Sure, you’re hear an eighth-note-locked, single-note vocal rhythm which is KIND OF a ripoff of Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench.” But don’t even front: you at home wanted to rip that song off too, you were just afraid of getting caught. Ripping that song off is better than some original rock music moves I hear.
Obviously, then, the song unfurls and shows its tungsten guts, like that upbeat-stomping session of “uh-hey-uh-hey”’s following the second chorus, and the glorious guitar solo which belts out swinging riffs on the distortion pedal like they were cups of lemonade at a sidewalk sale. I think Brad Stenz sort of sinks into his lust in a singular sort of way here (“Once a long time ago / I caught a glimpse of you alone”) and there is the impetus for the song, but it’s the end result that matters, and at least we know the impetus now, like the voyeuristic consumers that we are.
Ok, Provisions, Fiction and Gear is epochal… I’ll give you that. It was basically made for me: I was a huge Green Day fan who graduated high school two months after it came out. In hindsight, I can sort of see how the constant Blink-182 arpeggio riffage would sort of annoy some people. It’s the type of thing I almost don’t even notice, coming from when I do: it’s like the beeping of a credit card reading machine you’ve been listening to all day.
Well this music just seems to have bite and it never ANNOYS me. I mean it’s not rock/rap, so that’s a feather in its cap, but it’s loud punk rock and they’re not like TRYING TO BE FUNNY like Blink-182 or The Bloodhound Gang and maybe this hurt them commercially in the long run but from a purely musical standpoint, this stuff has the emotional chemicals of emo with more rock-like techniques which showcase versatile skill. There’s a post-punk, open-hat drum beat on “Hearing Things.” There’s the unexpected devolution into palm muting on “Thinkin’ Please.” There’s a Moog synth here, a funny lyric there: Provisions, Fiction and Gear is Moth’s masterpiece and should be recognized as such. The fact that they never “took over the world” as a collective, so to speak, perhaps makes their story only that much more compelling.