Jam band moe. are no strangers to the studio. Despite being known for their live performance, the band has released eleven studio albums over their illustrious twenty-five year career. No Guts, No Glory, their eleventh, plays out like a set from a Moe. concert. In fact, most of the eleven tracks made their live debuts well before this album was released.
moe. formed at the University of Buffalo in 1989. The band has enjoyed continued success over the past 25 years, with a fervent fanbase that has allowed for such events as moe.down, snoe.down, and, the recently announced Tropical Throe.down.
So how does No Guts No Glory compare to the live music? Pretty damn well, I’d say. The album kicks off with the fairly straightforward “Annihilation Blues,” a blues number written by guitarist Chuck Garvey. It’s a good opening track, with a driving guitar riff and steady bluesy lyrics. However, the band really dig deep on the subsequent track, “White Lightning Turpentine.” Written by bassist Rob Derhak, this is a more gritty look at moe. than the band has offered in the past. The song opens with finger-picked acoustic guitar progressions, accentuated by the vibraphone of Jim Loughiln and haunting slide guitar tones.
Now we’re really grooving. A sweet tune by Al Schnier called “This I Know” lightens the mood of the album, just for a moment, before things get cooking. After “Same Old Story,” a straight up 60’s-rocker, the band plateaus with the ever-psychedelic “Silver Sun.” The tune sounds like something off of a Pink Floyd album, with filtered vocals that could be mistaken for John Lennon’s. The mellow groove shifts through numerous incantations, rising through guitar solos for several minutes before the vocals even enter.
Here’s a live rendition of “Silver Sun,” showcasing the many sections of this nearly-ten-minute long album track (it’s even longer live!)
After a few shorter, fun tunes, including “Calyphornya,” “Little Miss Cup Half Empty,” and “Blond Hair And Blue Eyes,” the band again showcases their compositional talents on the fun track, “Billy Goat.” This is classic moe., opening with a funky bass riff and settling into a melodic stride. After a handful of verses describing, well, a stubborn billy goat, the band finds a catchy refrain, “Nothing can hold his final refrain from being untold.” This sweet melody, highlighted by xylophone, ultimately provides the power for this song. There’s a great instrumental, complete with blistering guitar solos, but the refrain resurfaces to close out the piece.
Here’s a live rendition of “Billy Goat”:
Moving right along, the band finds harmony in another sweet Al tune, “Hey O.” Then, they get a little latinissimo with “Mar De Ma.” And finally, the band caps off this glorious album with the epic “Runaway Overlude.” The song bounces from heavy rock to soulful pop, opening with a thick, distorted guitar melody before settling into a melodic verse. The song depicts the struggles between a runaway soldier and his harsh colonel. The band tosses in mildly anti-war political statements, but ultimately tells the story through complex musical structure and descriptive lyrics.
All in all, No Guts No Glory is a fantastic album. The band runs the gamut of their musical styles, mixing longer, complicated compositions with simple, down-to-earth ones. A song like “Blonde Hair And Blue Eyes” will keep you singing along, while something like “Billy Goat” will have you on the edge of your seat.
Well, let’s be honest, you won’t be doing much sitting at a moe. concert.
-David Melamed (@DMelamz)