Pretend for a second that you are in the band moe.: you’ve been playing together for twenty-five years, performed alongside rock-and-roll legends, hosted major festivals for fifteen years, acquired a cult-like following, and now you are staring down the barrel of recording your twelfth studio album. Now what? How do you create something new while acknowledging the path that brought you to this point in the first place? More importantly, how do you find the fire to keep going at all? These questions seem to be underlying motifs throughout, No Guts, No Glory!, a balls-to-the-wall, 11-track record, clocking in at just under an hour. The album is a unique blend of musical styles that stay true to the “moe. sound”, while acknowledging their journey as a band, and paying homage to their scene, contemporaries and influences.
The album opener, “Annihilation Blues” is a quintessential, up-tempo moe. song, with a sharp rock hook that busts into a sustained bluesy-guitar chorus. This tune, along with the last track,“Billy Goat”, which features catchy licks and quick, sealed bass lines are arguably the most ‘classic’ in terms of fun, sing-along type songs that are undeniable jam platforms. It is easy to imagine swaying to either song in the Upstate New York summer sun while polishing off a Saranac. The album really comes alive though on less-traditional tracks, where moe. explores different sounds and focuses more on succinct, meaningful song writing. “Same Old Story” for example, has a sort of washed out, surf-rock feel with rant-like lyrics, while “White Lightning Turpentine” showcases a tasty slide guitar and meditative xylophone patterns while maintaining a country-twang feel that feels like a rainy night. The nods to musical influences are also huge on this album: “Little Miss Cup Half Empty” starts off with a Beatles-type melody before transitioning into a 90’s ska/reggae up-stroke and percussion lines; “Calyphornya” has a grunge feel that challenges the idea of stardom and Hollywood and is very reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication”. “Silver Sun” is perhaps the most notable homage, with undeniable Pink Floyd influences (think specifically “On The Run”), including steady low-end drums, distorted dream-like vocals and a slow, tasty guitar solo with a thickened tone.
With all that said, my favorite tracks are where moe. turns introspective and self-referencing. “Do or Die”, for example, tackles the idea of keeping on as a band, while finding new inspiration and the drive to keep fans interested. This song also touches the idea of pseudo-stardom and always striving for the next level of success, with lines like: “Keep on workin’ / I know someday the time will come / I’ll make it someday.” The standout song of the album for me, however, is “The Pines and The Apple Trees” which is a beautiful, thoughtful, coming of age song that is bittersweet and nostalgic. This track is exceptional because it not only addresses the passage of time and changes for moe. as a band (“Wouldn’t trade those memories for diamonds or gold … Can’t guess where you’re headed next / overwhelmed and underdressed“), but for their fan base as well. The biggest moe.rons are now twenty-five years older than their first moe. show and the times have changed. Passed are the days of the “Happy Hour Hero” with “a pint of ale and a shot of jack / a pack of Camel Lights”; these days, as Rob sings in “The Pines”, it’s more like “can of beer, can of prier, and a fistful of pills”. Still, if No Guts, No Glory! is any indication, moe. doesn’t plan on slowing down or going anywhere anytime soon. With an arsenal of fresh songs and new ideas, paired with that classic feel-good moe. sound, fans are sure to enjoy continuing to age (gracefully) with the band until their next chapter.
Key Tracks: White Lightning Turpentine, The Pines and The Apple Trees, and Billy Goat