Once in a while I’ll just pick bands to look into that I’ve never heard of, based on genre alone, a vague descriptor or recommendation. This is how I tripped into the world of Them Moose Rush, a progressive rock band from Croatia whose name sounds more like a drawled warning from your uncle while out hunting. I can’t quite put into words what I expected, simply because I didn’t know what to expect, but I do know that what I got is one of the most rewarding listening experiences informed by the best that progressive rock has to offer with their album Don’t Pick Your Noise.
I’d like to point your attention to the ‘About’ section of the band’s Facebook page, which reads: ‘Space prog noise rock trio which will change your perception of how a modern rock trio sounds!‘ Bands are, of course, going to hype themselves up, simply because that’s their job and it’s integral to their success as musicians, whether success is measured simply by acquiring fans who enjoy your work or securing sales and money. Not that many bands can back up their overly boastful words with artistic action. The scary thing about Them Moose Rush is that their actions speak louder than their words.
Superb writing alone makes them a force to be reckoned with, most obviously with the guitar and vocals. “Radio Violence” is ridiculously catchy in that regard: the groovy downward slope of the guitar riffs and vocal harmony that’s made with them is infectious. Sometimes, even the band falls victim to their own catchiness. “Lethal Dose of Pretty” has a segment after each verse where singer and guitarist Nikola Runjavec feels compelled to improvise some vocalization to the tune of his arpeggio riffing. It’s also got some of the best drums on the album. Provided by Vedran Marinko Komlen, they have a slightly jazzy edge during the verses that builds to a fierce eruption during the chorus. So many melodies on this album call to be hummed along to, and I found myself walking along with a little more bounce in my step while listening to its high momentum moments.
The trio is fearless, playing with conventions and inserting odd elements into their sound. “Dumadu Honey” crawls in the middle of the track, the vocals sounding like half-speed Staley-era Alice in Chains. There’s another guitar-vocal harmony here, and the tempo ramps up like an adrenaline shot slowly coursing through your body. The title track is a funky number with a driving bass arpeggio from Branimir Kuruc and some seriously whining ‘wah‘ on the guitar that culminates in an explosive chorus. “Nevermind Openmind” is a spacey prog treat, riding an atmospheric wave with drowned-out vocals and Tony Iommi-esque riffing with fine, fuzzy tones. Don’t Pick Your Noise isn’t afraid to bring on a psychedelic mood, and with this track sounding like a vivid kaleidoscopic journey, it sticks out particularly well.
This is what I wish new At the Drive In was like. Granted, there are not a lot of post-hardcore fingerprinting here, as Them Moose Rush opt for a slightly (very slightly) more straightforward prog rock approach, but the similarities between the two bands’ energy and some of their elements beg for comparison. It’s also hard to ignore that Runjavec has a cadence similar to Cedric Bixler-Zavala, which is something I am one-hundred percent here for. To take this comparison in a bold, yet relevant direction: I haven’t felt this moved by a modern prog rock band since first hearing The Mars Volta‘s De-Loused in the Comatorium over a decade ago.
The only thing that rubbed me the wrong way about this album was “Stupid Face”. It’s a good enough song instrumentally; colorful guitars and Runjavec’s silky drone stand up with the rest of the tracks. The tone of the lyrics, however, doesn’t fit in well with the rest of Don’t Pick Your Noise. The first half of the chorus is ‘fuck you, motherfucker/I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, yeah!‘ Fair enough! It goes on similarly from there, albeit less vulgar, and shows more of this lyrical tone disparity between this song and the rest, which have more of an abstract feel to them. The lyrics aren’t offensive or off-putting to me per se, it’s just within the context of the album that they appear too dull in comparison to others and grate on me. Ultimately, this is a rather small complaint, and is probably just something that didn’t sync well with me personally. It doesn’t do much to detract from the excellence on display elsewhere on here.
Them Moose Rush is almost paradoxical. It’s a wonder how they manage to be as palatable as they are. They aren’t overly extravagant, nor do they lean much into avant-garde territory, yet it’s still a very dense listen that took me several tries over two weeks to realize the mastery at work here. The details they pack into their music create a vast toy box of excellent riffs, diverse textures, and some of the best vocals I’ve heard in years. It’s familiar yet alien, as is befitting of a ‘space prog noise rock‘ band. Don’t Pick Your Noise is a wild time, and one that rarely missteps. Them Moose Rush might be one of the most promising and artistically rich bands in prog rock since The Mars Volta.
Notable Tracks: “Dumadu Honey”; “Don’t Pick Your Noise”; “Lethal Dose of Pretty”
FFO: The Mars Volta, The Blood Brothers, Foxy Shazam