moe. : Sticks & Stones

moe_sticks_stones.jpgIf the idea of change scares you, or if the thought of your favorite band trying something new sends you running and screaming for the hills, then moe.’s new album, Sticks & Stones, may not be for you.  We are not talking the radically unrecognizable KISS disco album Dynasty different, but just enough of a shift to the unfamiliar to still render it a slightly scary thought.

Holing up in an old church in the Berkshire mountains a scant nine months after the release of their last album (practically the next day in the world of moe., who is notoriously slow when it comes to releasing new albums), the band engaged in an intense three-week writing/ recording session that saw the five sit-down and write songs from the ground up for the first time ever.  The sessions produced eight brand new songs (alleviating some of the complaints of their last few albums, which were over-populated with songs that had been in their live rotation for years), as well as finding time to rework two older songs they had previously shelved (“All Roads Lead to Home” and “Conviction Song”).

The results are stunning.  Still present are those classic moe. elements, most notably the twin guitar work of Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey – especially present on the plodding rocker “The Darkness” which finds the two guitarists swapping licks back and forth in their trademark fashion.  But Sticks & Stones sounds more like a complete band effort than any of their previous albums with the usual distinctions between individual songwriter’s contributions blurred, giving it a wholly different feel.

Sticks & Stones at times feels like it was dropped on us by a 1970s AM rock-radio station, with its crunchy mellow vibe that harkens back to that Classic Rock sound of an era long gone.  Much of this is due in part to the band stripping away much of the technology and synth-based sound they found themselves mining recently.  As bassist Rob Derhak says, “This album is full of more real instruments.”  The band also steers away from much of the overproduction that dominated previous albums (Dither, The Conch), delivering a warm, (almost) acoustic trip that is by far and away their best sounding studio release.  Derhak sums it up best, “We just wanted to make old-fashioned music, something completely new, that is completely old.”

Sticks & Stones is out January 22 on FatBoy Records