Here comes an interesting new band. You’ve been teased over the past few weeks by the video releases, and now the album is available so you can appreciate a tantalising body of work.
Muzz is like Fuzz, but more muddy, darker, like a mysterious pond. It’s the sound these three accomplished musicians have created for themselves and for us, over several years of occasional collaboration amongst times of respite from existing commitments.
Why? Because Paul Banks sings with Interpol, Josh Kaufmann with Bonny Light Horseman, as well as producing for others such as The National, The War on Drugs, The Hold Steady, and most notably playing/producing Bob Weir's recent album. That’s how I know him, because he appeared live with Bob at an intimate release gig at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2016. Impressive guitar player. And finally, there’s Matt Barrick, who drums with Fleet Foxes on tour along with his other bands.
So, with all that pedigree, how do you get a sound which isn’t highly derivative? (and what’s wrong with that?)
“We didn’t want the record’s era to be overly identifiable, so we used traditional recording methods with a live, analogue feeling,” Banks says. “It’s a little more naked and open at times. Josh uses the word ‘muzz’ to describe a texture of sound he likes in certain older recordings, so it’s his attempt to put a term to a subtle analogue quality. It became very married to our sound.”
And yes, there are definitely shades of The National in this dark, sombre yet at times ethereal and uplifting collection of songs. Maybe provincial, maybe states-like, stand-offish, don’t get too close, we’re not nearby, we’re around the corner, over the hill, you can’t quite catch us and when you are about to pounce, then we’re gone, on another sonic journey somewhere else.
The album starts off in gentle fashion, sounding like a Bill Callaghan entrée, “yeah, we’re rolling….” with simple lines, soft melody, slow build, orchestra, stop. So long, Bad Feeling.
Evergreen features echo-chamber vocals, subtle, understated, dreamy.
And then here comes the National influence with Red Western Sky. Then. the same ethereal quality returns with Patchouli. Broken Tambourine could well be a Robbie Robertson song.
Knuckleduster is rockier, How Many Days is heavier, and Summer Love brings us back to haze and daze and dream. Melodic, soft, ethereal rock.
These guys are old friends, in some cases from schooldays, and it’s not a band of individual effort: “It’s genuinely collaborative, a three-headed monster,” Banks says. “We generate music together, and songs come from all directions. No one person is calling the shots, it’s equal-everything.”
The urban dictionary has a definition of Muzz as “a state of mind where the affected is unnaturally unaware of his surroundings” If you can make sense of that, then you’re a better man or woman than I (and I’m a man).
All I know is that Muzz is a delightful collection of songs which are easy and captivating to listen to. It’s a grower, it’s a keeper, it’s a nice surprise out of almost nowhere.
Check out all seven videos, and then buy the album: