Dancing in the Darkness with Harper & the Moths: A Review

In 2019, there is something refreshing about sitting down and listening to a new album.  In terms of new music releases nowadays, there are three different basic models.  All of which have been actively discussed across interviews and blogs, for quite a while now. Just this week, in fact, Ed Masely dropped his 20 year recap interview with Roger Clyne, and in that interview, Roger alludes to the concept of releasing singles versus releasing albums.  I will label this Model 1: releasing high quality singles.   Interestingly enough, Ed Ederle, his son Eddie, and I talked about that as well when I interviewed Analog Outlaws, and they are currently touring together.  It just proves this conversation is happening, it is happening in interviews, and it is happening in production conversations.  Is the album, with all of its cost and studio time lumped together in terms of funding, a viable option in a music industry turned upside down by streaming?  Model 2 is releasing a vinyl record.  We have all seen the resurgence in vinyl, and many in the music community think they should have never strayed from it.  It is a purer medium, and streaming is a non issue.  When I interviewed both Brent Babb, of Dead Hot Workshop, and Wyves with the release of RUOK?, we talked about the art of designing an album.  The order of the songs, the compilation of each side as an experience.  This leads to Model 3, which Babb and I discussed at length.  When CDs replaced vinyl records and cassettes, the concept of Side A / Side B became linear.  Now, the songs on the CD could be consumed in one sitting, and the order of those songs, the progression of tones, keys, topics, these ideas change in the construction.  Each of these models have definitive strengths and definable weaknesses, and it is interesting, as a voyeur if you will of the scene, and as a member of the artistic indie community, to watch these models at work.  This is, after all, a business.

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Photo Credit:  Jim Louvau

When Harper & the Moths stellar third album, opens and closes with an Intro and an Outro, and releases as an album on Spotify in pre-release, you know immediately that you are not dealing with Model 1.  Dark Enough to Dance may indeed be a single machine, with stand out hits right out of the gate, but Harper Lines and the boys released it this way as a reason.  They held an album listening party for their close friends, for a reason.  Dubs Private Reserve programs entire albums, for a reason.

BTW, Dubs has Harper & the Moths on his July 4th Dubs Private Reserve show on KWSS 93.9 FM.  Be sure to catch this one, this will be a great show, talking about this album with the band as they listen to it with Dubs.  Then, not to be outdone, Dani Cutler has them on the morning show the next morning bright and early!

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Photo Credit: Jim Louvau

And that reason, the reason to listen to an album as an experience, is to captivate you, cast a spell over you, and entangle you in a sonic reality, an escape that even for an hour, lets you conjure with the warlocks, spin with the witches, and dance with the spiders from mars.  That is the spell, that Harper & the Moths are able to boil and bubble.  Folks….Get ready for a dead man’s party at Crescent Ballroom!

Dark Enough to Dance – the Ghost Writer Review

Intro:  One of my all time favorite concerts was The Cure: Wish 1992.  I saw them at America West Arena in Phoenix.  That tour started with a song called “Tape” that the band used as an intro to come on stage.  You could get the recording of it on “Sideshow” a small release of live tracks not included on the “Show” Live CD.  This track reminds me of that very much, and I will be very surprised if it is not utilized the same way.  It is a cool little haunting opening, but it has one purpose.  It sets the stage.  We are gone…. the end has come, and we are off to go where ever souls go… but when we meet the mysterious maker, we really only have one question.  Is it dark enough to dance?  And that question propels you into the album, and I defy you to not sway with the music almost immediately.

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Photo Credit:  Luxicon Photography

Run:  A recurring theme on the record, pain, the memories of it, the scars of it, and the ability to grow past it, comes right at you with the first song on Dark Enough to Dance“I’m ready to run, are you ready / I’m ready to live, are you ready to leave it all behind you?”  With a driving nostalgia for 80s synth driven dance pop, but with a solid core of percussion, and guitars, Harper and his Moths channel everything that made Duran Duran a pop machine in the 80s.  Their songs hit with that instant love, that spontaneous sway of the shoulders, and that almost uncontrollable urge to sway with the memories and the music.  Easily a stand out hit on the record.  That’s 1.

Your Love:  This song, released as a fantastic 360 degree video is pure dance.  “Can’t keep my feet on the ground” indeed.  Listening to this album driving a motorcycle through Phoenix and just dancing like a disco machine is what I am talking about.  It is compulsory.  This song screams hit.  Right out of the gate.  People just need to hear it.  Which means… YOU… have to share it.  The melody is infectious, you will be grooving to this tune as soon as the first chords hit.  That’s 2.

Wyfyhe (When You Feel You’ve Had Enough):  One of Harper’s real strengths is hooks, chorus’, bridges.  I imagine he gets this melody, that is just all consuming, and the lyrics pour from that.  I am not sure if that is the case, but it seems like it.  If there is ever a moment when the lyrics do something funky, or take an interesting leap… like in this songs use of “ chance….. es” in the first verse.  For me, there was this slight hiccup in the spell that the song was weaving, but then it launches into that groovy catchy chorus and whatever moment of questioning is gone as the shoulders start the sway.

No Thanks:  Ah, the fantastic, poppy, dance-able, tongue in cheek revenge song!  “We’re having a good time, let’s keep this party loose/ We’re having a good time, gonna let your body move/ We’re having a good time, got nothing left to prove/ We’re having a good time, and it’s no thanks to you.”  It’s the anthem of, “Hey, are you not entertained!”  But in this case, Harper is a neon goth gladiator defying you to not have a good time.  And if you rise to that challenge… well, that’s on you.  Because the party is here.  Easy hit 3.

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Every Bit:  When I first heard this song, live, I remember thinking the change up at the end of the first verse, “Love is the hardest drug!” It breaks the melody of the song, and again, it is one of those falling out of the spell moments, but it really sets up the chorus nicely.  In fact, the more I listen to this song the more it leaps to the forefront of the album.  And, not for the first time, nor the last, I feel this tinge of guilt as my groove starts to sway and I realize I am probably dancing on Harper’s broken heart.  The album is deeply inter-cut with pain, loss, and the emotional process of letting go of those traumas. “You’re still every bit as beautiful as I remember, but I hope your new love sees the truth.”  Harper….. Dark enough to dance indeed.  Easy Hit 4.

Time to Get Back “I still believe in a second chance” too.  This is a cool little song.  It’s pop, it’s fun, but in an album stacked with some really groovy tunes, this may be one of the few that you won’t feel too badly for running for the bathroom or a beer.  Now… wait a second…. that is not to say this is not a groovy song.  It totally is, but I am saying, the majority of this album is gonna keep you on your feet and moving.  Going back to our models at the top, this is the top of side B.  It is almost like a breath, a pause, a moment of reflection, before pulling you spell bound right into the next track.

Ecstasy:  You remember the Intro right?  The question?  Is it dark enough to dance?  You won’t take anything but my heart, my body and soul/ We should be dancing baby, cuz nothing matters no more/ I’ll give you everything that I’ve got and you’ll still want more. Whether this song is literal or figurative doesn’t change its message.  Ecstasy destroys, or has been destroyed.  And it sucks you dry.  Either way, it is a dark message, and so dance-able it is sinful.  A lot of this album reminds me in tone to a Depeche Mode album, dark, black celebrations, songs and epitaphs to distressing things, but couched inside of a magnetic danceablity…. that feels, like witchcraft.  Easy Hit 5.

Luxicon Photography
Photo Credit:  Luxicon Photography

Dark Magic:  A very synth based song, Dark Magic drops the tempo a bit.  Again, almost like a chance to breath just for a moment, before Harper commands you to the floor again.  And, as before, that is not to say it is not a dance song.  The whole album is a dance with the macabre.  Bitter love, you’ve been here before/ It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself/ The charade is over now/ Time to break down and shiver/ Leave your pain on the floor/ Your dark magic’s got me feeling all right/ Your dark magic’s got me feeling so alone.  This song also shows the range capable in Harper’s voice.  When he can take it to almost a somber tenor, before propelling back into a higher chorus.  Harper’s voice is easily just another instrument in The Moths, and songs like this are where it shows in contrast.

Body Heat:  Musically, this song is the most minimalist on the album, and it uses that stark simplicity to highlight the message and meloncholy memory.  “We fall apart/ We break down / We use our hearts/ To find ourselves / Don’t know if I’m ready to let you close to me.”  But this song does not feel like an escape from the dance floor.  This song feels like the end of a night, the longing glances across rooms, the shy look away, only to look back and smile.  It is the quiet stillness, wondering if you have the guts to take a plunge to the sonic surge of the chorus when you decide to jump in.  With this song…. it is like we have succumbed to the dark magic that has been weaving through us the whole time…. and submit to it.  Hit 6.

Harper and the Moths have also recently signed with Media Horse Entertainment, a firm charged with projecting their awesome music to shows, commercials, and other spots out in the really wide world.  I for one am looking forward to hearing my Moths in all sorts of fun and interesting places!

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Photo Credit: Jim Louvau

Move Me:  And in the end, all dark dances come to and end.  All dance floors clear.  There is one last surge, one last frantic push, and this song comes at you as a duet of dance-able hope, a song that says, “aren’t you sick and tired of running“, and brings the album full circle back to Run.  It seems fitting to do this by weaving a duet through the bridge, ending us with almost a conversation, a hint of hope….. in the dark.  Dark Horse Hit 7.

Outro:  I hope it was dark enough to dance……….

Folks very few albums, indie or not come at you with a punch that says, yeah… you can listen to this one on repeat and you won’t want to skip.  INXS did it.  We all know how Kick played like a greatest hits album, but it wasn’t.  It was just solid.  From start to finish.  Add Dark Enough to Dance to that list.

And yes, Harper and his wonderful Moths…. it was, it is, and we cannot wait to dance in that darkness with you at Crescent Ballroom !!!!

My friends….. Rock Local…..

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And Keep the Greasy Side Down

 

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