Sometimes, the heaviest rock can coexist with the purest pop.
When garage-rock band the Mooney Suzuki started out in 1997, all they wanted to be was an ass-kicking group that paid homage to the Stooges, the Stones, the MC5 and the Nuggets box set. Then, in 2002, they got a taste of success with their roaring sophomore record, Electric Sweat, and suddenly they wanted more – way more.
So the New York band hooked up with the Matrix – the production team that has worked with Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Hilary Duff. The move was a risky one: Diehard fans are easily rattled when artists sign with major labels (in this case, Columbia), let alone collaborate with pop songsmiths. And since the Matrix had never worked with a grimy rock band before (the closest they came was with Liz Phair in 2003) the results could have been disastrous. They’re not: On Alive & Amplified, which comes out August 10, the Mooney Suzuki and the Matrix play off of each other’s strengths without stepping on each other’s grooves.
The band still sounds heavy, retro and sweaty, and its music still swims with gritty rhythms. But instead of relying on raw power, the Mooney Suzuki draw from the producers’ encyclopedic knowledge of pop music to create songs with more finesse.
“New York Girls” features acoustic strumming and a jaunty electric piano that could be from a Bob Seger classic. Halfway through the song, all the instruments drop out except for the drums, vocals and handclaps; then they all gradually return to the mix as production effects morph and twist the sound. Throughout the album, the band piles on dense rhythmic layers and multi-tracked solos, and each time the Matrix retain the musical chaos without losing control.
The album’s first single, which will hit radio early in the summer, is the propulsive “Legal High.” The track begins with a verse that’s a cross between the Temptations and Jimi Hendrix, and evolves into a rousing chorus reminiscent of early Kiss. The band is currently deciding on a director for the track’s video.
Throughout the album, the Mooney Suzuki match their urgent, sexually charged music with lyrics about getting down and dirty: Song titles include “Loose ‘N’ Juicy,” “Messin’ In the Dressin’ Room,” “Naked Lady” and “Love Bus.”