by Karen Bliss
From What! A Magazine
"Neil Young!" Moist guitarist Mark Makoway says the name emphatically, in that raunchy rock tone which needs to be accompanied by a fist in the air. That, he refrains from doing. But neither Makoway or singer David Usher can contain their enthusiasm for landing the opening slot on Young's recent Canadian tour.
"He's just the coolest guy going," Usher commented before the tour began.
"It's perfect timing for us, just when we wanted to get back on the road and play for people," adds Makoway. Moist's second album, Creature, was released a month earlier, allowing the band to introduce some of the new material to Young's arena-sized audiences. Most of the set, however, was made up of songs from the triple-platinum debut, Silver.
The tour began in Vancouver, where Moist formed in 1993, and ended two weeks later in their new home base of Montreal. Strangely, Neil Young never once popped his head in to say hello. Ah, well, the band won over the older, primarily male Young fans with hits like "Push" and "Silver" and by inserting snippets of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" in "This Shrieking Love." It was quite a challenge compared to Moist's daytime experiences while on the road, where thousands of squealing girls would show up at various retail outlets to get a glimpse of the band as they performed live and signed autographs. In Calgary, the "in-store" had to be cut short because it was sheer pandemonium. A reported 5,000 people showed up and screaming girls chased the band down the mall. "It was nuts," says Wilcox. "I actually had a security guard."
Response to Moist's first single from Creature, "Leave It Alone," has been incredible. The song quickly rose to the number 2 spot on the singles chart. Like many of Usher's lyrics, the song is dark and uneasy. "There's definitely a car crash metaphor, about finding someone who you know and love in pieces on the road," explains Usher. "But generally the song is about our own perception of our supposed immortality and how we forget how finite life is." The track helped propel the album to platinum status in less than a month.
Moist's 1993 debut album, Silver --an indie album recorded for a mere few thousand dollars-- sold an exceptional 360, 000 copies domestically once it was released, unchanged, by EMI. Creature, co-produced with Paul Northfield (I Mother Earth, Suicidal Tendencies), marks the band's official major-label debut. Featuring the rocket-cracked tension of "Tangerine," goading rock of the current single "Resurrection" and the slow perversion of "Better Than You," the album is a complete cycle of emotions.
Lyrically, Usher's muse is not pretty. "Writing about the happy home I can leave to other people," Usher says. "Not to say our lives are miserable because they're great, but you have a voice and you have to use that to make an impact. I don't want to beat people over the head with stuff. The last record was very personal and this record is personal as well, but it's a little more socially aware because we've seen a lot of things and been a lot of places. I just write what I write, just whatever in life is striking to me."
With so much time logged on the road, musical growth was inevitable and, for their part, each member had his own agenda for the new album, a chance to explore, experiment and add a different dimension to the band's sound. "We've been through different spaces on this record. Definitely we beat ourselves up over it, trying to get it the way we wanted it, " says Usher.
"I think we were more willing to take chances with our sound," adds Makoway. "When we were making the first record, we weren't signed to a record deal or publishing deal and you're making demos in a way. But once you're signed to a deal, it does open up certain freedoms that you didn't have before, despite the pressures to write another hit record, you get to put all that aside and just kind of get to work."
Says Wilcox: "It has quite a bit of a bigger dynamic range as far as the songs are concerned. We got a little heavier, bigger and more aggressive, but also a lot quieter."