Andy Bohren has launched the “Maine-Ly Pop Punk” podcast about, well, you can figure it out. The former keyboard player for the Sophomore Beat, which had a strong run from 2007 through maybe 2015 fronted by Daniel James Lohmeyer, was right there at the nexus of a Maine music period that now seems like ancient history.
The combination of cottage-core and hip-hop/dance that has taken over contemporary music doesn’t seem to have much space for big guitars and emotive vocals and a little light moshing.
But there’s little wonder that Bohren wants to relive that relatively recent past. The Maine talent was really hard to miss, from Even All Out’s “Things I Forgot to Say” to Headstart!’s “Do This” to Too Late the Hero’s “Is This Thing On?” to Sparks the Rescue’s “Eyes to the Sun” to Holy Boys Danger Club’s “Boo Box” and the Killing Moon and Animal-Suit Drive-by and Radiation Year and many more.
It was boy-dominated, sure, and aggressive in a way that now seems very 1990s, but it was also very post-rock in its self-awareness and sensitivity.
Many of these bands brought an intellectualism, an introspectiveness, a vulnerability, that wasn’t present in the bravado-fueled rock pantheon before the century turned. Many of them also, however, couldn’t escape the self-destructiveness that rock and roll sometimes seemed to demand – that sense of danger, that idea the artists involved were walking up to the edge, peeking over the side, and liking what they saw there, was integral to the genre’s allure, if not particularly healthy.
If you’ve got a yen for that sense of danger, a world where all the edges haven’t been rounded off, you might find yourself not only nodding along to Andy’s “Pop Punk” conversations, but also hitting repeat on the newest effort from Chris Moulton, frontman for two of that era’s finest bands in the Cambiata and In the Arms of Providence (and a few others).
His new project, Beggars, has a new album in “Elephant” that is absolutely resplendent, white-hot, and electric with emotional energy.
And he’s got help. With significant medical issues now in the past, Moulton found himself sending ideas to Enoch Jensen, producer of the Cambiata’s debut “Into the Night,” who finally just told Moulton to get on a plane to L.A. where they could work properly, not only pulling in old Bangor friend Cameron Mitchell to play bass (he lives down the street), but also No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and Letters to Cleo’s Mike Eisenstein to play some slide guitar.
Yes, really. Moulton’s vocal and songwriting talent seem to attract those kinds of people.
I could listen to him sing just about anything, but when he transitions from intimate to explosive, when he uses a gasp to make you just about pass out with anticipation, when he bleeds effortlessly from his chest voice to his falsetto, when he leads with a line like “I think I’m using the medicine wrong,” like he’s plucked it out of the public consciousness, all in the album’s opening “Two if by Sea,” I’m immediately yanked back to the Station on St. John Street, circa 2006, wondering how the hell Maine produced a kid who shines this brightly.
Now with quite a few more miles on his tires, Moulton hasn’t so much mellowed out as broadened his appeal. He hits Neil Young and Rhett Miller notes with the harmonica-fueled “Like Swans,” where “I don’t wanna be your new project/ I don’t need to be nobody’s papier mache,” and he finds himself “stuck in a town that I wouldn’t mind burning to the fucking ground.” And he dips into screamo for “Mrs. Pavlov’s Home for the Vertically Inclined,” where he taunts the listener in the finish: “Are you so fucking afraid?”
It’s all fun and games that Olivia Rodrigo is using “fucking” to get a rise out of people on her pop-hit “Driver’s License,” but Moulton is so free and easy and pointed with “fuck” on this album that he actually manages to re-imbue it with a bit of power. It’s so easy in his mouth and still so cutting, even as he’s referencing occult religions like Thelema and its founder, Edward Alex Crowley, who simply had a name designed for emo tunes.
If you really want to burn with nostalgia, skip to “This Old View,” heavy on acoustic guitar and a shuffling percussion. It has everything Paul Westerberg and Evan Dando used to conjure up heartache: “Walking away won’t bring me back to you,” Moulton sings, and the minor turn in the second and fourth sections of the chorus makes you believe it.
It is play-it-again-right-away good.
As is the album as a whole. Moulton says he’s got a band working up the material for a show sometime soon, maybe even with CDs to support it in Bull Moose. That’s a throwback I’m ready for.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at [email protected].
2 weeks, 5 songs
• Mira Sthira, “My Future Partner” — Bright and poppy and dance-infused, the tension here is created by the video game beats supporting an emotionally mature plea for partnership and stability.
• Ian Herchenroder, “Just So You Know” — The kind of mix of soul and acoustic that drew attention to Ray LaMontagne and Graham Isaacson, this first release hints at stages to come.
• The Mallett Brothers Band, “Livin’ on Rock ‘n’ Roll” — The first single from the upcoming “Gold Light,” this is the kind of anthemic acoustic rock the Malletts have made their stock in trade, perfect for campfires and blaring out of pick-up cabs.
• Eric Bettencourt, “From the Wreckage” — Slinky and menacing, “the world outside is melting down,” but Bettencourt just seems to keep getting better. The chorus here should retroactively be the closeout to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
• Nine Zillion, “Now that You Are Done With Everything” — A narcotic indie rock, this new project features Superorder/Sunset Hearts drummer Max Heinz driving a frenetic pace that frontman Zane Gundersen is determined to rein in.
— Sam Pfeifle