In the context of New West Records’ stable of artists, Wild Moccasins stand out as a truly unique entity. Most of the other artists signed to the label have their roots in musical forms and structures linked clearly to rock instrumentation and styling, but Wild Moccasins don’t so much rebel against that paradigm as simply ignore it and try making their own path, without apology. Now, of course, that claim is not made to imply that Wild Moccasins have absolutely nothing in common with their label-mates (the dozen songs which comprise the Look Together LP all feature realtime instruments and performances at their core, and singer Zahira Gutierrez has the presence and disposition of a bonafide superstar) but, pound-for-pound and note-for-note, it would be impossible to claim that Wild Moccasins doesn’t stand wholly apart from the rest of the stable of artists which call the label home.
As icy synths open “Boyish Wave,” listeners may actually be surprised first and then feel their anticipation begin to build with the cool wash of sound as well as the very Bowie-esque (think “Fashion”) beats which poke through the mix. That’s pretty cool, but the glowering tones which overtake the lion’s share of the music coupled with Gutierrez’ crisp, clean and startlingly high-register vocals paint a strange and compelling picture from which it is impossible to turn away. Just as Blondie did at the height of their powers, Wild Moccasins present the image they intend to inhabit for as long as is necessary before moving away quickly to let listeners examine it and imagine further possibilities.
As the A-side of the album continues, listeners will find that the inspiration to follow along after “Temporary Vase” was absolutely the right one. After that, “Longtime Listener” takes a look at the Eighties from a slightly different angle and invokes The Cure with some clean, chorus-imbued guitars and “Missing You” recalls similar Eighties girl-pop and rock tones before “Doe-Eyed Dancer” pulls listeners into a decidedly introspective corner and “Seven To One” crossbreeds some great, Cult-ish guitar tones with a vocal performance which cross-pollinates sweet and dramatic vocal inflections similar to those found in Madonna’s early work and both the bombast and candor of Annie Lennox’s solo debut to close the side. Through it all, listeners will find it impossible to tear themselves away from these songs because each is just a perfect marriage of old ideas and new; the instrumental composition of each song owes an obvious debt (or several) to pop radio of the Eighties but Gutierrez’ vocals and lyrical composition are unmistakably the work of a 21st century, post-modern entity and can hold listeners entranced by the balancing act between the two.
The balancing act presented through the album’s A-side is continued perfectly on the B-. Beginning with the album’s title track, Gutierrez’ vocals take a moment to see if she can make listeners’ hearts melt with a “you done me wrong” plaint that anyone who has gone through a divorce will be able to appreciate (especially the “Doing it together, although we’re apart” refrain) and then sighing heavily between bombastic drum beats in “Desired Effect” before letting the singer play “the girl in the affair,” left to feel more than a little useless in “No Muse.” At each of those turns, listeners will fall easily into step with Gutierrez because the music included blends so well and easily with the emotional center presented by the music. True, both music and lyrics are consistently dire on Look Together‘s B-side, but nothing gets overstated or boring in the slightest here.
The going of Look Together does change dramatically in the late-playing of Look Together‘s B-side, but neither overstatedly or unfortunately so. For example, “Shooting In The Dark” takes another try at veering towards the disco that Blondie hit upon with “Rapture,” while “Conditional Lover” nails an update of Madonna’s True Blue for the post-modern generation perfectly, and then the whole thing collapses and closes up with “Waterless Cup” o end the proceedings. Anywhere else, it would be easy enough to curse and claim that the ending “Waterless Cup” represents is a perfectly soft conclusion, but the way it works here is perfectly satisfying; the way that both the music and Gutierrez seem to grasp through each successive track creates a sense of desperation which proves to be infectious and the way the album ends in “Waterless Cup” leaves listeners thirsty for more.
However, with that thirst on the record now, one has to wonder how the band will quench it on their next album. There’s no question that Look Together is a very good album but, front to back, it is a complete entity; it introduces Wild Moccasins and works its way through a complete exercise which shows listeners who the band is, so now the task of finding and developing a deeper personality that extends beyond this beginning has to fall to the band. There’s no question that this album leaves several possible developmental options open for the band, it will just be interesting to see what they choose on future releases.
(New West Records)