A Dorky Dimebag of Fun
With their 10th studio album, What Happened to the La Las, care-free prog rockers moe. prove they’re like a well-worn pair of boots: comfortable, still kicking, and down for a good time. They compress a kaleidoscope of sounds, textures and imagery into a cohesive whole with their trademark pass-the-joint breeziness, plus a distinct aplomb that can only come with being together forever. Nothing is ever too serious, some of it verges on downright dippy, and you get the feeling moe. wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Smoke,” an odd church-bell laden creeper, demonstrates this well. “God helps us with our problems,” winks vocalist Al Schnier, “if you don’t get in the way”—painting the image of a loner treading the hazy boardwalk of life, freak show attractions and all. Its big and hard-hitting drums, “us vs. the world” romance, and goofy circus-gone-mad quality let you know you’re indeed listening to moe. and no other band.
Then, in the very good “Haze,” we’re treated to a gutsy, straight-forward rocker that falls somewhere between Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” and Skynyrd’s rollicking “Sweet Home Alabama.” Its tense and moody verse uncoils with a cathartic “Hey!/Let’s go/I don’t care as long as you are there,” calling on the time-honored tradition of hopping in a convertible and skipping town with your chick.
“Rainshine” and “Puebla” feel weaker in comparison. The former not for its seasoned bar band musicianship, which is great, but because all the boozy come-ons (“I just need a little love/And you’re the only one I’m thinking of”) and randy-on-the-road posturing verge on the clichéd. The latter, admittedly, plays like a geography lesson put to music, coming off like Carmen Sandiego’s Rockapella caved and started a jam band. In truth, maybe this actually is awesome. It’s just a lot to compute.
Despite those scant iffy moments, What Happened to the La Las remains an above average effort. The poppy and concise Gin Blossoms sendup “One Way Traffic” is brilliant, in fact, as well as the hilarious, deflated Mad Max satire “Paper Dragon.” For all you asylum escapees looking for a dime bag and a good time, this is the dorky hang-loose album for you. Another worthy chapter in the book of moe.