The Moth Lantern
The E.P. Barricade is available at:
24th July, 2015
Barricade (All of This is Everything) – 9.3
Bring out the Claws- 9.4
Bring out the Claws
ONE of the reasons for my rather ‘boisterous’ rate of output…
is due to a (the need for a) distraction. What with the horrors of job-searching- fruitlessly trying to get my arse out of Surrey (and the worst it has to offer) and to London- I need something to keep me ‘upbeat.’ It is terrific discovering a new act- that I have not surveyed before- yet coming back to a band/artist; that does else: it gives me causes for celebration; a chance to see how they have grown/developed. In the music scene, you go one of two ways: start out strongly and collapse under the weight of financial/creative pressure or you keep going. It may be black-and-white but there are few exceptions: I have seen too many great acts go down the first road. When a (truly great) act makes headway; keeps producing records, it sends out a positive message: newcomers need not be afraid; there is a chance for them to succeed. It is not just luck and hard woirk that creates this longevity: the music being produced has to be original and striking; penetrate the public ear- essentially, it has to appeal. This year has seen some great acts come through; there have also been some dreadful ones to boot. It is the female solo acts that are impressing most; the band market is flourishing- the male singer-songwriting realm is somewhat dirge-producing. James Bay is perhaps the epitome of the point: something so bland, generic and wasteful, I have no idea why anyone buys his music. The most interesting thing about him is his head-wear, and to be fair, Pharrell Williams has him licked- and can produce a few good tunes to boot. The band market is starting to inspire (acts of the underground), which is where my thoughts have turned. Having reviewed Tennessee’s Daphne & the Mystery Machines this morning- with their uplifting and spine-tingling Americana- I am not back at home- and welcome back some old friends. Last year, I was lucky enough to assess Light Waves: the debut album from Lincolnshire’s (The) Moth Lantern. What impressed me about the album- in addition to many other factors- was the consistent songwriting. When it comes to music- and especially new music- the lyrics are a let-down: usually it is the music and vocals that resonate most. In Dan Clark- the group’s principle songwriter- they have a stunning pen-smith: someone who can not only effortless taps into the common heart; he can write oblique and obtuse themes- a songwriter who is both agile and inspiring. Before I continue on, let me introduce the band.
Dan Clark– Guitars, Lyrics and Music.
Jason Rungapadiachy– Bass, Lead Vocals; Lyrics on Bring out the Claws
Joanne Clark– Keys, Backing Vocals
Eddie George– Backing Vocals, Percussion
“The Moth Lantern are a four piece indie rock band from the UK whose funky ballads, catchy choruses and colourful jams encompass the spirit of timeless bands such as Fleetwood Mac and Beck. The Moth Lantern offer a concoction of powerful, gritty lead male vocals harmonised with soft, folkish female backing amongst crunching riffs, tight rhythm sections and psychedelic keys to create an edgy and enticing sound. Having been selected to play the Emerging Icons stage at The London 2012 Olympics and having featured on BBC Introducing East Midlands several times, The Moth Lantern’s mix of gentle acoustic ballads and harmonious rock songs present impossibly catchy choruses and immaculately layered production which makes their music impossible to forget.”
The four-piece band (in general) may be as common as Katie Price- and as manufactured and fake a lot of the time- yet there are those peeking through. The Moth Lantern are not your run-of-the-mill Indie/Alternative act: each player contributes to the sound; the music is not dominated by one voice- it is a group effort and communal sound. Although Clark’s words are at the forefront, it is the compositions that resonate in the mind- the result of each band member. Backed by Jo Clark- Dan and Jo are a husband-and-wife- the vocals switch from tough and pervasive, to lush and ethereal. This time around- unlike Light Waves– Dan steps back from vocal duties; drummer Eddie George provides backing vocals. Taking on lead vocals is Jason Rungapadiachy: his inimitable tones add weight and texture to each track. Compositions move from psychedelic swagger to introspective tenderness- all within the space of a few moments. Light Waves was met with acclaim and plaudit: I still listen to that L.P. now; the critical feedback was effusive and congratulatory. Having retreated to focus on new material, the band is back: Barricade is as striking and focused as its title. What differentiates the music- from their earliest work- is the confidence and growth. Their L.P. was rife was stunning tunes and terrific band interplay- although there were one or two rough edges; the odd song that was not quite as inspired as you’d expect (no fault of anyone within the band). The new, three-track E.P. is faultlessly focused as tight: there are no loose notes or wasted moments- every minute has been well thought-out and performed; this has all been achieved whilst retaining a great, live-sounding core- that makes it such a triumph. I will go into more depth below, but I am impressed by the band’s development: it not only bodes well for future released, but serves as guidance to others- how you can progress/inspire if you have a great line-up.
Barricade (All of This is Everything) is first out the blocks: the title itself is intriguing and open to interpretation. Any die-hard fans (of the band) may be in for a surprise: the springing and scratchy introduction notes signal a move towards more Rock-infused avenues. The initial seconds- building off a fast and frantic guitar- joins with percussion: the resultant coming-together kicks the song up a gear; gets the E.P. to the races. Reminding me of early-days Manic Street Preachers (The Holy Bible) and The Libertines (Up the Bracket) there is a mix of ‘90s Indie and ‘00s Rock- the early words mix trips “into the unknown” and uncertainty. Whether speaking to a friend or lover- based in fiction or fact- the lines look at protection and danger: the hero is trying to keep the wolves at bay; barricade the doors shut- to prevent any harm befalling (his subject). The vocal itself- stronger and more determined than previous Moth Lantern outings- is determined and impassioned. Backed by a rushing composition, you are caught up in the story: that struggle-against-the-tide story unfolds and progresses- the sense of nerve and danger ever-present. Barricade’ is a song that showcases just what the band defines: that effortless and natural sound; the fantastic relations the members’ have- each player adds to the overall mood. Between verses the band unleashes some hurried and harried strings; clattering propulsion- that emphasises that sense of claustrophobia and struggle. Our lead turns the spotlight on himself- focusing on his struggle and sense of strain- as the song becomes more heated and defiant (the Manic Street Preachers comparisons came back to mind). With the walls closing in; the haters/forces gathering, our hero sends out a plea: “Stay with me/ ‘cause we got history.” The song wins stripes because of the blend of simplicity and universality. The lyrics share common themes and ideals- yet have a personal perspective to them- whereas the composition is both classic and current- it is straight-ahead and simple; direct and strong. The Moth Lantern always does well with sing-along choruses; here they reach new peaks: the chorus here is one of their most effective and chant-worthy. When Clark (Jo) combines vocals, the song changes up a gear: it becomes more effective and real- that sense of interplay and comradery gives it that extra something. At the closing stages, the chorus is reuttered and deployed: not only leaving the song on a high but ramping up the emotions and sense of strain. My mind was racing (when listening to the song) as to what inspired it; what is behind the story- that mystery may die with (Dan) Clark. A great opening salvo, it sets out the band’s ‘new’ sound- their more Rock-infused direction- and welcomes them back into the public bosom. Showcasing a great band performance (although not the strongest cut on the E.P.) it is an impressively memorable track- one that is designed for the venue floors and arena crowds.
Bring out the Claws begins somewhat differently (compared to its predecessor) and possesses a softer heart- it fades in and starts more gently. Given the song’s title, that sense of restraint does not last too long: the band comes to play and unfurl a pummeling introduction- one that rattles and runs; strikes and retreats. The vocal here- low-down and crooning; dark and imploring- looks at something rather animalistic and dangerous (“It’s got teeth/and I know you saw them too.”) In the midst of the unfolding images- blood on hand; beasts on the loose; being shred in two- there is humour and uplift (whether intentional or not)- the song makes you smile as much as it does think. With a unique vocal- that sees Jason Rungapadiachy present his sonorous tones- the song is gripping and original. Few bands have a great vocalist let alone three (Rungapadiachy comes into his own as a singer- performing on the E.P.- whereas Dan Clark steps back): their bass player joins with George to present a story with beasts and feasting; canine lust and blood-fest- another one of those songs you mull over. Whereas the title track looked at fighting the forces, here there seems to be another dimension: a nightmarish vision; uncertainty and choices; fighting the darkness. With Rungapadiachy’s sharpened pen (he wrote lyrics to this track)- presenting a track filled with oblique edges and stunning images- the song causes smiles. Complicated and intelligent, defiant and striking, the vocal work is at its peak: Jo Clark joins the fray, and when the trio unites, you get the biggest shivers and effect. It is the deployment of the lyrics that is stunning to hear: the words are not lazily tossed-off and sung; there is a real ear for timing and emotion; the phrasing and projection beings the words to life. Bring out the Claws is one of the busiest and most bustling tracks (on the E.P.): the composition is multi-part and multifarious; the song changes direction and skin- agile and nimble it ducks and dives; making sure the listener is kept on their toes. The guitar work- at its most effective here- adds necessary bite and vitality; the bass is taut and strong- the percussion gallops and guides. Whereas Barricade’ was more Indie-sounding and focused, here there is adventure and expansion: the band does not repeat themselves at any time; Bring out the Claws is the perfect mid-way point. Once again looking at life’s adversity- battling demons and bad choices; holding out in the midst of uncertainty- the band sound essential and urgent- completing a superb one-two.
Closing the E.P, is Air: one would think we have a light and airy closer here. The opening notes dispel any sense of calm and relax: the initial notes are bouncing and ducking; the song is the most instant and rushing (on the E.P.)- making sure Barricade closes with a belter. It is here that the new ‘Rock sound’ really shows its testicles: The Moth Lantern have never sounded as heavy and menacing. Air kicks and swaggers; if it were a human it would be a leather-clad biker- thumbing against authority and smoking endless nicotine. With elements of Muse and Radiohead, the track keeps gripping grabbing- little dashes of Talking Heads sprinkled in for good measure. Spacey and gritty; insistent and bracing, the song is the band’s most anthemic and festival-ready. When the vocal comes in, the subject matter is as foreboding (as the composition). Our lead is looking over the precipice- and very evident of the mortal drop below- buckled against the rush of gravity. There is a sense of disillusionment and not ‘fitting in’: our man (once more) is fighting against pain and adversity- the lyrics mix personal doubts and fears. It is the incredible keys-and-guitar combination that gives Air its infectious belt: the track keeps bouncing and springing (like an extended version of the outro to Knights of Cydonia). The band unites again vocally; when the voices are blended, you get the biggest rush- and the song reaches its peak. When it comes to interpretations- trying to dig to the song’s core- there is a little mystique and wiggle-room. Lyrics switch between dreaming and driving; falling and fears- they rush by as fast as the composition- causing a dizzying effect. Essentially, there is that core of demon-facing/overcoming fears- one of Barricade’s hallmarks. The entire E.P. looks at a very common issue (we can all relate to): whether Dan Clark has been particularly affected- and faced some personal upheaval- I am not sure; yet it shows a great new direction- the new, Rock-influenced sound suits them fantastically. Whilst not quite as strong as Bring out the Claws, Air is a superb closer- one that is a fitting swansong. Towards the closing moments, the band unleashes their inner space demon: the intergalactic, Space Age electronics fuzz and vibrate- you can feel those little touches of Origins of Symmetry-era Muse. Like a galloping horse, the band keep that epic-ness afoot: the riffs are relentless and fast-paced; the percussion and bass frantic and fist-aloft-against-the-tide- each note and thought adds to the boiling, psychotropic cauldron. Before the E.P. is through, The Moth Lantern throw in another de-tour: the final moments mingle softer moments (among the rapturous kick). The hypothesis- or rather, the losing chapter- wraps things up. Our hero is “not coming up for air.” He has been wronged (and let down) and you sense some submissiveness and defeat- that sense that his luck is done. Trying to be strong, instead he’s sinking like a stone- when all’s said and done; he’s not coming up for air.
Congratulations to the band, who have produced a stunning E.P. – one that gets stronger (and more compelling) with every new listen. Improving on Light Waves, Barricade is their strongest work: their new harder edge works wonderfully. Complete with a trio of stunning songs- that are unique and diverse- and you have a band with huge ambition. It is hard to impress with just a trio of tracks, yet here they have done that: come the end, you find yourself wanting more; hoping there is a hidden track (there isn’t). Perhaps the vocals get muted/buried a little at times- the opening track is most culpable- and this happens during Air too- for the most part, the vocals and clear and decipherable; the production rich and clear. Minor detraction aside, The Moth Lantern should be applauded: they have compiled an E.P. that is personal and universal; ready for festivals- yet something that seems quite intimate (at times). The production itself allows the band full flight: each instrument and compositional element is given full breathing room- nothing is compressed or mixed low; each composition is allowed to breathe and strike- meaning every track hits full potential. In terms of vocal, it is not needlessly high up the mix- at times it suffers; for the most part it doesn’t- making the E.P. sound like a genuine band effort- some bands put their lead up front and leave the other members behind. The Moth Lantern are, first and foremost, a collective: every member is essential to the music; each comes into their own here. Vocal duties are split between the Rungapadiachy, George and Clark: it is Rungapadiachy’s that provides lead vocals; Eddie George and Jo Clark backing- when all three unify, you get the biggest hit (Dan Clark has stepped back from vocals on this record). Rungapadiachy’s lead vocals are an impressive replacement; it is great to have the bassist up front- he graces the E.P. with some tremendous vocals turns. The songwriting is impressive throughout- the lyrics are never cliché or run-of-the-mill- and are those that can be appreciated by everyone. Sharp and incisive lines mix with sing-along broadness: Clark has ensured the E.P. can be extrapolated and appreciated by a wide sect. Jo Clark’s keys and vocals are stunning and mood-changing. Adding magic and vibrancy in spades, you cannot ignore its effect. Rungapadiachy’s bass work is reliable as ever: his unique tones add weight and majesty to the music; his guiding bass keeps the songs taut and controlled. In addition, his lyrics (to Bring out the Claws) are both humouress and fascinating- he is developing into a fantastic songwriter. Dan Clark’s sturdy lead drives the E.P. forward: he is a guitar talent with a stunning (and original voice). In spite of not providing vocals, Clark wrote the lyrics (to tracks one and three); penned the music for the entire disc- showing himself as a songwriter to be reckoned with He is the band’s leader and songwriter extraordinaire. With Eddie George’s percussion hard and heavy; controlled and calm, and you have a superb backbone- his drum work adds primacy and danger to (the E.P.’s finest) moments. His backing vocals are impressively strong throughout- the band have shown they have a range of incredible singers- his blend of emotion and heart help bring the songs to life. Barricade shows The Moth Lantern in full flight: something I hope continues for years to come.
It is the bond of the quartet (that translates into terrific music). Were the relationships collegial and insincere, you’d soon hear it- the music would be half-hearted and limp. The Moth Lantern are friends and close-knit; they have a great understanding and mutual respect- this funnels into some wonderful music. After Light Waves’ stunning example, I was expecting a new E.P.: to my mind, it would have been a natural run-on from the album. What we have is something both new and familiar. The band retains their key strengths and core sound, whilst expanding and developing their craft. New themes and ideas are tossed into the pot- Clark has crafted three (musically)- two lyrically- of his most compelling tracks- whilst the band sound more essential and tight- you can hear the new confidence and passion. Simple things impress me when it comes to Barricade: it is a three-track release, yet it seems just-so; the length is spot-on; the running time is neither too long nor too short. That said, the E.P. begs for repeated listens and some teasing- the greedy listener begs for a fourth track; it means there will be some hungry/eager fans (looking for more music from the band). The running order is great too: the title track perfectly opens things; Air is a brilliant closer- any other arrangement would mean a weaker release. I hope the Lincolnshire band find some more support and reviewers: I know I am the first writer to tackle the E.P.; I hope more follow suit- the social media ranks deserve to be fuller and expansive. Hopefully Barricade will go a long way (to getting more people to their shores) as the guys have worked tirelessly- making sure their E.P. is as strong as it could be. Wonderful vocals- that mix of harmonies and strong lead- and incredible performances are rife; the production values are clear and concise- the songwriting is at its peak. As 2015 runs down, The Moth Lantern will be hitting the road; bringing their new sounds to the people- hopefully they will have a chance to relax and reform. When the new year emerges, they will look around (at their next E.P. or album) and where they go from here- that will be exciting to see. The Moth Lantern have managed to remain very much them- whilst bringing in a harder, Rock-infused edge. They have not compromised their ethics, instead they have evolved and grown- the same way all great bands have. Radiohead started with Pablo Honey; their Rock-edge masterpiece The Bends (the greatest album ever produced) followed- they went on to introduce new sounds and aspects (into future releases). Great acts understand the need to keep mobile and open-minded- will the next release be a ‘Moth Lantern version of OK Computer? I doubt it, yet the quartet is growing in strength and innovation; they are bringing in new themes and sounds- all to the betterment of their overall sound. Barricade is a perfect soundtrack for the ‘summer’ days: the breeziness and alacrity (of their softer moments); the hard rush and hooks (of the harder) seep into the mind; it gets you singing along- gripped by the natural chemistry the band produce. My one hope is The Moth Lantern gain wider acclaim: are embraced beyond their base; demanded further afield- a chance for new faces to hear their music. Social media is doing what it can, but more can be done- they are a group with a great future ahead; a lot more to say. If you are unfamiliar with the band, rectify this immediately: once you have cottoned-on, be sure to share the word- and get others involved. Barricade is the result of hard work and a lot of passion: make sure this is justly rewarded. Whilst the band’s masterpiece is in their future, their current work is deeply impressive and nuanced; good enough to nestle with the best out there. I look forward to seeing the four-piece in the flesh; bring them down to London- get venues/crowds here converted. When all is said and done…
THAT will be great to see.
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