4 out of 5
Label: Comedy Minus One
Produced by: Brad Wood
One wonders how many similar stories there are to the recording of Eleventh Dream Day’s El Moodio – the group’s last bid at major label backing, for various label-politics nonsense reasons first recorded with Brad Wood, then scrapped and entirely re-recorded and sequenced at Atlantic Records’ request, this time with producer Jim Martinelli, only to result in EDD being dropped from Atlantic – tales of whole, completed records that will never / have never seen the light of day. One better / worse half-step from that are the stories we have heard: knowing something was once out there but you can’t have access to it might be more noxious overall.
Clearly the best step, though – besides such scrappings not taking place initially, at least when not at the bands’ behests – is when we get to hear the lost material, even if it’s decades later. And maybe time passing is even a good thing, as the recording can then be evaluated on its own merits?
Listening to New Moodio, that fabled Brad Wood take of El Moodio, certainly deserves its own merits: the complete rearrangement of tracks, and Wood’s very present recording style make the music come alive anew, just as fresh feeling as EDD’s most recent release, Since Grazed.
Reveling, as ever, in rootsy Neil Youngisms, New Moodio no longer has to deal with the legacy of grunge which labels were keen to continually bottle and sell at the time of El Moodio; while that album is a classic in its own right, it has a vibe that’s of the time, whereas New feels very timeless, perhaps thanks to how restless it is. Rick Rizzo’s vocals shiver between a wistful tiredom and impatience over a need to express oneself; Janet Beveridge Bean’s drums are a war of careful pitter patter and big beats; the guitars and bass in constant conversation between slide guitar folk and big rock riffs and solos. While EDD have since maintained their 90s indie rock vibe, which lends a kind of arena-avoidant haze to their compositions, the way all of these elements intertwine leads to a near-constsnt presence of head-bobbing melody, and right-‘neath-the-surface emotionality; it’s a recording that sneaks up and grabs you.
That urgency does run counter to when the group tries to slow things down a bit, as Rizzo’s lyrics are better as a ramble than a repeated mantra (which is the habit during longer songs), and the band’s mash-up of noisiness and tunefulness also functions best in a rush – these slower songs occasionally feel like they’re delaying for a break which never arrives.
Repeated listens mostly fix this, though, as your ears adjust to pick out all the relative highs and lows amidst the fuzz.
New Moodio earns its name: not just for being clever, but in how it presents the band anew. It’s clearly the same band as from El Moodio and Since Grazed, but bundles the freshness of a modern release with the sense of history that comes from a group that’s been in the trenches. And perhaps that’s all nonsense that I’m only hearing based on the story behind the disc, but the end result is that it has me revisiting both classic and recent EDD with new appreciation.
Note: the digital version of this has three extra tracks vs. the LP, stitched onto the end. The review is from the digital, but the vinyl works just as well – though the three tracks are very good, if maybe better suited to kick the album off, by my opinion.