Spencer Krug likes playing dress-up. Sometimes he is Wolf Parade and sometimes he is Sunset Rubdown, and now he's Moonface -- "the last moniker I have left to exploit." Throughout he sounds like Spencer Krug: Bowie at his most lofty -- the moh-ho-ha voice Tony Visconti grew like a moth, keeping it in darkness and feeding it with trapped mikes and glam arrangements; a Patrick Wolf style before PW became, well, comfortable. At the ripe old age of 35 (thank fuck: just when I was starting to feel old) Spence sings like he means it and like you're meant to be there in case something new happens or maybe just goes wrong. Tonight he was new and things went perfectly. In fact, they went better than I'd idly wondered. I thought Moonface would be good but dude. Srsly. There are gigs and performances and then there are moments of confluence, where what you like and what is indisputably good music overlaps with the third zone of timing, and this was one of those.
Moonface were remarkable.
Krug stripped down to organ and rhythm box for his first Moonface release. He does vinyl and CD and has a record label -- there are a few tracks for download out there but he dwells not on the Soundcloud, as if holding out for an old-fashioned career. Pavement played Kentish Town a few months back and it was all very college singalong: grown men in skate shoes pogoing to 'Wild Thing' before sloping off for a beer and a curry with nothing risked at all. I saw Jane's Addiction as their own dedicated covers band: forget it. I saw NIN who were great, and spry, but boxed in, ironically. No matter how wildly Trent swung his arms he knew that the keyboard, with one touch of his finger, would generate more clashing white noise than any guitar: his physical gestures were theater. The new bands know it too, and have retreated to the high-timbre, Powerbook-sized tinkle of sentimental pop. Italians do do it better and music has rested there for about 24 months now, sparkling in the sunlight: sugary melodies, bitter themes, Peak Girl... while bubbling under we've had the real boy bands: the East Coast baby prog sound that began with Animal Collective through to MGMT and Washed Out, the sound that someone once described as "Dennis Wilson falling downstairs." (Were they being clever or not? Dennis Wilson always sounded like that, and he fell downstairs all the time.)
But it was all a bit... adolescent. You admired it in the way you admired Sofia Coppola: nice kid, she can do anything she wants. There wasn't much you could get your teeth into or identify with, let alone rock along to. So we settled for the heartlessness of the Dandy Warhols, or the retro-mainstream of The Killers, or who the fuck knows. Pop was dead: there was only indie, and the other stuff; and rock -- that was a collectible up on blocks in the garage. Don't touch dad's things...
When I listened to Moonface online I liked them immediately, but not in a big way. The arrangements were long and plodding but I haven't heard synths march like that since The Associates' Fourth Drawer Down, so we were officially in Yay-Land: the 80s but the good 80s. A deep heat. Earnest monologues that keep up with Ida No (Hey, Ida!)... Sweeping electro landscapes... Trent Reznor pissed-off, Washed Out-loving, MGMT-ironic. When Spence sang 'Talking heads make me miss my friends' he was referencing the band:
Everything is fleeting, baby / Even the sadness that the late summer gave me / Our dreamy memories of the 1980s / First we sing falsetto, and then we sing lazySo when Krug / Moonface came to London I thought, sure, I'll go see. Cargo in Shoreditch, all very East End; that'll be cool, that'll be fun. The crowd thought the same, all standing very straight. And then the band came on and... lawdy.
Knocked me flat.
A real critic would write the songs down in the proper order. Emotionally it went from (1) this is good to (b) this is, wow, this is really good to (iii) Srsly? this is amazing and am I the only one getting this or am I just very old / high / up for it / all of the above? Structurally the songs were the same as the ones you may or may not be allowed to hear on YouTube: big, simple chordal shifts, textured, with willowy vocals laced on the top -- nothing you can't get your head around. But live, fuck me: Moonface were amazing. So amazing that I kept thinking, well, they can't be that good. But everything I've seen or heard up until now tells me that yes sir, they are. I think this is their moment. Or rather, I think the wave is just starting to rise.
We haven't had pop for so long. We haven't had pop that mattered in the way, say, that New Gold Dream did back then. We haven't had pop for a long time that said anything, and we certainly haven't had pop that felt much, and we sure as fuck haven't had pop that could fill a stadium. But now, suddenly, you think, yup. It's here. And it's that simple.
Moonface (Krug) was playing with Finnish "rock band" Siinai. Technically he's the vocals and they are the band: razor sharp drummer (80s dance, march beat, goth, rat-a-tat-tat post punk), keyboards (head tossing), guitar (present), bass (very), all grinding and restrained... But they overlap, and good luck prying them apart. When they were all playing the one chord they made no apology for it: here it is and, well, yes: over to you. They played most of Heartbreaking Bravery, which is a brilliant album but they made it better than that. Online 'Yesterday's Fire' sounds like another (very good) Placebo single; live, it was Station to Station big. Online 'Headed for the Door' sounds like Alan Rankine finger-banging: live, it was monstrous -- lush, majestic, liquid, cut-throat Reznor. 'Lay Your Cheek On Down' is 18-karat lovely in its digital version but in a space with a ceiling on it, it was post-Spector girlband apocalyptic: everything the Jesus and Mary Chain aspired to but never actually achieved.
After that, it got better. 'Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips' ("make you look like Stevie Nicks"), 'Shitty City'... An hour and ten later the audience were standing around numbed, and the guitarist was looking slightly perturbed, and Krug looked as if he could go for another set, and people shuffled out. 'What did you think of that?' I kept asking people, and they were generally pleased. But I couldn't help shaking the feeling that we'd all just seen something remarkable, whether we were aware of it or not. I think Moonface are the new thing. After several years of pop bands playing around the edges, this is a band with everything it needs to occupy the center. Go feed yourself. Feed them.