Indie supergroup releases relaxed, inconspicuous debut
A byproduct of being lifelong friends, Paul Banks, frontman of Interpol, Matt Barrick, drummer of the Walkmen and Josh Kaufman, producer and multi-instrumentalist of Bonny Light Horseman, are the newest indie supergroup to join forces under the name Muzz. Their self-titled debut LP was released June 5 on Matador.
Free from the demanding constraints of their other projects, Muzz is the culmination of years of relaxed co-writes and experimentation. It takes the band’s laid-back attitude of writing and recording and turns it into the album’s aesthetic. Born out of nothing but friendship and mutual respect, Muzz, both the band and the album, are unassuming and completely casual.
From the jump, it is evident Kaufman’s musical genius is at play. The opener, “Bad Feeling,” displays impeccable production work which highlights the instrumentation, including full orchestrations and the horn section. Throughout the record, Muzz utilizes every instrument they have access to and while it may get repetitive, it’s still indicative of how musically intelligent every individual on the project is.
Despite how complex and clever the music is, Muzz as a whole appears to be lacking in purpose and drive. Superior musically and in regards to production, the actual content of the record, specifically lyrically, feels average in comparison. The reason behind bringing these particular talented individuals together is completely lost.
Even at the album’s highest lyrical achievement in “Evergreen,” the band still doesn’t appear to be saying anything new or unique to their journey. Banks sings, “one medication, one thing to bring you over/ one thing to make it nice, tonight I’ll tell you/ Don’t ever really need it, somehow it’s taking over/ Sometimes we seek at night and it binds us.” Thinly veiled references to addiction may be borderline cliché within the genre at this point and with such broad and general lyricism, there is almost nothing to connect to. The fact that this is the record’s greatest lyrical moment is a red flag.
It’s songs like “How Many Days” and “Broken Tambourine” that make the stale lyricism forgivable. In the latter, Muzz includes birdsong over the piano introduction, perking the listener’s ear and drawing attention. Once the drums kick in and the song gets going, it almost feels like it’s over too quick, despite being the longest track on the record.
On the other hand, “How Many Days” dangerously toes the line of being boring and bland, however, with an impressive extended fuzz guitar solo it quickly saves itself. The greatest moments on Muzz are the experimental ones. Unfortunately, there aren’t quite enough and they’re far too spaced out.
Twelve tracks long, clocking in at 43 minutes, Muzz would probably be better suited as an EP. Putting aside the fact it seems as though the band is struggling to find what it wants to say, Banks’ vocals, as alluring and polished as they are, end up dragging by the second half of the album. In the beginning, Banks is sensitive, fragile and husky, but due to the lack of diversity in delivery, it gets tiring and taxing to listen to.
People have built careers on the sleepy, laid back sound Muzz possesses. A lot of these people have had far less finesse and fail to deliver musically the way Muzz does. At the end of the day, however, the key to listening to Muzz is understanding exactly what it is.
These individuals don’t sound like this because they’re building their careers on it. They already have separate, successful projects. Muzz is a step back from that, from the creative limitations of these already popular acts. Looking at it that way, of course Muzz is relaxed, warm and fuzzy. It’s free.