Review taken from the archives:
Man, I wish this shitty band would just get off the stage already. I wish Wilco were up there. What if Wilco still played clubs like this? What if they were still approachable? They could party with us after! I bet they were pretty chill back in the day. The Wilco of old never would have kicked that dude out on the documentary. To see Wilco play a small club, party with 'em after, now that would be something.
It is something. And we get it with Chicago's Mooner: Wilco sound, approachable rock stars. Mooner formed is Portland, but moved to Chicago because that's what you do when your sound rivals that of hometown heroes -- you make that hometown your own. And then you record with Mike Hagler, who engineered Wilco's Summerteeth and Mermaid Avenue. And then you stay grounded by hanging out with fans like me after you play Quencher's March 21st. (Well, I made that part up. I mean, they do have a show, but we haven't nailed down the hanging-out particulars.)
But despite any similarities with Wilco, Mooner is a band apart. The singer sounds like Tom Petty as often as he does Jeff Tweedy; and more often than not, he sounds like himself. His is an extraordinary voice, singular in its ability to carry with ease songs that move and turn. And though Mooner certainly belongs to whatever genre Wilco does, that only narrows it down to alternative rock, indie rock, folk rock, experimental rock, and alternative country.
But Mooner is not alt-country or folk/experimental rock. Nor do they limit themselves to power-pop (a term I've read in others' descriptions). The arrangements have time and space to breathe, employing guitars that are relatively loose and distortion-free (relative to power-pop), and they utilize guitar patterns more often than riffs or power chords -- and they occasionally solo and even jam. Then there's the terrific bassist, who'd have limited space to work in power-pop. Mooner's affinity for Elvis Costello & The Attractions shows in its appreciation for the bass guitar.
"Overrated" is probably the closest to power-pop, and is a great record. But "Shapeshifter" is excellent too, and its fretting has more to do with 60's garage rock than it does to power-pop. "Shapeshifter" is musical song-craft at its most sophisticated, supporting charming lyricism like, "You are a lonely little firefly / You think that you could be my guiding light / Guide me home."
Spanning genres and surpassing all comparison, with the Unpronounceable Name EP, Mooner succeeds on its own terms. Given Mooner's skillful songwriting, and shape-shifting vocals and bass -- if Wilco never comes to Quencher's, you should at least catch Mooner there. ('Cause I'll be hanging out with them after.)
*** The author of this review, Harold Evans, plays the cuica for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8