Moving Units CD EP review [Three-One-G/Rx]

Music Reviews
Moving Units CD EP review [Three-One-G/Rx]
Feb 4, 2003, 15:01



Is there a “Next Big Thing” anymore? Or has music become so diffused and scattered that the major labels are just picking up every band with some relation to a fleeting flash of a trend? Refresh my memory: what was the Big Thing this month? Garage rock? No, White Stripes and the Hives are so over. American Brit-Pop neo-indie rock? Well, The Strokes, Walkmen and The Shins are selling a sizeable amount of records but aren't exactly conversation pieces in mainstream homes. Emo-punk? Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves don't seem to be cracking the MTV charts so far. Electroclash? Nigga please. Retro-post-punk? Interpol, The Rapture and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are selling modest numbers of “units” by music industry standards, but certainly not living up to the explosion that the labels had expected. To me, what this all appears to indicate is that we're back to the mid-80s music biz stratification now that the hole ripped open by Nirvana has quietly sealed itself back up. We're back to the concept of “alternative music”—a cozy glass ceiling demographic that allows only the biggest college radio acts to quietly fester and rot from the inside while being paid comfortably (thus, lorded over by demands for success) to create “commercially acceptable” (as per their contract's stipulations) recordings. Not a pretty state of affairs, for sure, but at least a fertile ground for weeding out the corporate rock choad-huffers and allowing for a more stable and healthy underground to rebuild itself without having the brass ring dangled into the scene anytime a good band starts making waves. There are perhaps too many scenes, too much distraction to transfix and galvanize the mainstream to rally around the same dark horse (as Cobain certainly embodied the varying meanings of the term). That said, Moving Units was for some incredibly brief period lauded as such aforementioned Next Big Thing… Nah, it's just a good band with catchy neo-Manchester post-punk songs. The L.A. trio borrows all the right elements from Gang of Four and New Order—syncopated dance drum beats, melodic bass lines, choppy-clean guitar riffs and urgently chanted vocals. But Moving Units don't simply steal (like Radio 4 or the other gazillion groups of their ilk) they apply these elements to their own strong songwriting chops. Upon its initial release, this 4-song EP seemed like a surprising and refreshing outcropping for the frenetic noisecore label Three-One-G to put out (drummer Chris Hathwell played in the San Diego spazzcore band Festival of Dead Deer). But its subsequent re-issue and high-profile push on Palm Pictures' Rx imprint turned it into more fodder to sling at Spin and myriad teen fashion magazines in impotent hope to “break” the band on the heels of Interpol and The Strokes. No one took the bait—perhaps because Interpol and The Strokes, despite finally reaching significant record sales, have yet to strike a chord within the mainstream Zeitgeist even though they've capped out in the “alternative” market. So, sadly for the fans that might have discovered Moving Units in due time—allowing for the band to build to a reasonable and successful apex of popularity for its sound—the amount of smoke and corporate rock's financial ramrod shoved up its ass may ultimately destroy the band. Bummer, because there's not a dud in the batch on this great sounding EP recorded by the band themselves under seemingly archaic conditions. But, along with many of the other groups that are going to receive much too hard of a marketing push to seem interesting, Moving Units… aren't moving units. They're just the kind of band that sounds reminiscent of familiar old favorites and writes songs that fit nicely on mix tapes and get stuck in your head for days at a time—just like my own personal Next Big Things do. Sure, there are far too many bands out there to choose from, but Moving Units are better than most; not the Next Big Thing, just something good. Used to be a time where that was reason enough, you know? [Three-One-G/Rx]

-Dave Clifford

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