BREVIEW: Moon Duo @ Hare & Hounds 22.07.16

Moon Duo @ Hare & Hounds 27.07.16 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice) © BirminghamReview

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Words by Helen Knott / Pics by Michelle Martin (Visual Voice)

What do ABBA, The White Stripes, Sonic Youth, Arcade Fire and Moon Duo have in common? Married band members.Moon Duo @ Hare & Hounds 27.07.16 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice) © Birmingham Review

It’s understandable that there are so many bands that contain couples really – the sharing of common interests is a solid basis for a relationship. And there’s always going to come that evening when you’ve exhausted all the good stuff on Netflix, one of you turns to the other and says: “Fancy a jam?” I’m sure that’s what happened with ABBA.

Moon Duo began life as a Wooden Shjips side project led by Shjips guitarist and singer Ripley Johnson and his synth-playing wife Sanae Yamada. The early Moon Duo sound is very similar to Wooden Shjips, but the band has progressively moved closer to the pop end of the psych-rock spectrum, replacing the drum machine of their early days with drummer John Jeffrey along the way.

Moon Duo @ Hare & Hounds 27.07.16 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice) © Birmingham ReviewOn the record, Jeffrey has made very little impact to the band’s sound – he plays like a drum machine. I was hoping that in this live setting having an actual human drummer would give the band more expression and power, but I’m disappointed. There are no significant changes of tempo, rhythm or dynamics in songs, or even between songs. May as well have kept the drum machine.

This points to the problem with Moon Duo – it’s all rather samey and one note, even when taking into account that psych is inherently repetitive. Songs are given more space live than on the record, which is generally a good thing, and the geometric visuals create the ideal atmosphere for zoning out.

But even with the odd poppier track thrown in from 2015’s Shadow of the Sun, such as early set highlight ‘Free the Skull’, the formula is all too predictable: synth intro, girl/boy vocals, moderately cool guitar solo, more vocals, more synth, end.Moon Duo @ Hare & Hounds 27.07.16 / By Michelle Martin (Visual Voice) © Birmingham Review

And I’m not expecting them to be jumping around the stage but there is an underlying air that they are phoning this performance in. The only audience interaction is when Ridley sounds mildly irked with us that the gig finishes early so that we can have a disco afterwards. He can’t even be bothered to sound properly annoyed.

The audience is energetic and keen to have a good time, but we get very little back in return, apart from a begrudging encore that makes our supposedly beloved disco three minutes late.

It’s not bad. It’s just a bit safe and predictable. Probably a lot like being married.

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