You may or may not have come across the name R. Stevie Moore. Well you may or may not have done a lot of things, so forget that opening. But back to that name… It has wafted through my musical consciousness occasionally, usually conjuring up ideas of twisted, homemade recordings on cassettes. Which is basically what I’ve read and heard about Mr. Moore (or RSM as he’s known here and there) over the years. And which is exactly on point because out of his 150-plus “releases,” most are just that. With titles like Games and Groceries, Clack!, You and Your Employees, Embarrass Paris, The Day the Earth Stood On Stilts, Tell Laura I Love Herbert, … The guy is considered a “lo-fi legend” by…the people who consider people things.
You also may or may not (phrase repeated to keep this introduction somewhat coherent – which is not always an adjective used to describe the persona and musical output of R. Stevie Moore – but anyway)…uh, have heard of Jason Falkner. Unless you are a late-80s-mid-90s power-pop aficionado with an ear for bands like The Three O’Clock, Jellyfish, and The Grays. All of which contained Mr. Falkner at one time or another. And all of which exhibit overtones of pop genius (that would be The Beatles) and less-household-name-but-still pop genius (that would be, say, XTC). Falkner’s solo stuff, from 1996 through the 2000s, is more of the same…and Falkner himself does indeed count those last two groups as influences.
Okay! So! Throw both these guys into the great rock ‘n’ roll blender, along with a few tablespoons of hard-rock power-riffs, choose the “2017” setting, and hit go! The thick, tasty mixture you’ll end up with is something called Make It Be, a new 18-track CD of (as it says on the promo sticker) “epic proportions.”
Right off the bat, this dynamic duo (ha-ha, “bat,” “dynamic duo” – blog post in the near future, hint-hint) proclaims, or rather, texts/tweets “I H8 Ppl,” an apt introductory interplay of Moore’s gravelly, curmudgeon-ish baritone, Falkner’s (or is it Moore’s) floating falsetto, and a guitar thing straight out of the Dictators’ songbook. Then it’s pow! bam! zap! (sorry), one uniquely-titled power-pop beauty after another.
The XTC factor comes alive on “Another Day Slips Away” (if I didn’t know otherwise, I would swear it is XTC, perhaps with a guest vocalist). Shimmering bubbles of guitar burst forth on the vaguely Beatles-like “I Love Us, We Love Me,” and even more shimmering guitars (and an even more Beatles feel – George Harrison anyone?) appear on “Sincero Amore.” 1960s psychedelia is king on “Horror Show” (the only track written solely by Falkner according to the album’s credits), Big Star joins forces with the Mothers of Invention (yikes) on one of the wittiest song titles ever, “If You See Kay” (yes, say it fast, what’s it spell?), which segues into one of Moore’s Beefheartian (or is it Beefhearty) spoken-word rants, the ode to news-media-induced panic “Run For Your Lives!” And “Play Myself Some Music,” quite possibly the album’s best cut, both musically and lyrically, travels down that XTC road again but with Brian Wilson at the wheel. Turns out that one (and a few others) were originally RSM concoctions from way back – check out the 1986 video!
Peppered in between are little guitar interludes and the aforementioned RSM wacky poetry that somehow befits a man with a long, blue-dyed beard. As well as “Stamps” (a song that makes buying stamps really rock – it’s about time somebody made that happen), an amusing electro-beat moment called “That’s Fine, What Time?”, a faithful-but-happily-Moore-ish cover of Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns’ 1958 hit “Don’t You Just Know It,” an instrumental exploration entitled “Passed Away Today” (which, at 5:41, is usually the one I skip – you know, every album has one of those), and next-to-last-song “I Am the Best for You,” featuring Moore’s best Lemmy growl over the album’s grittiest, guitariest groove. Grrrr.
Make It Be. Not Let It Be, mind you. MAKE it be!! Or else!!
photo credits: larecord.com, fujirockexpress.com, rsteviemoore.com