If you had to boil down the essence of Moonlight Rhythm Society, it comes down to one thing. Groove. No matter what sort of vibe they are going for, whether it is the more chilled end of their musical spectrum such as Under A Still Moon, or embracing a more upbeat vibe, as they are here on Data, groove has always been the key. And creating a good groove is not as easy as it seems, it’s not something that can be pre-planned or written down, it seems to only exist at the point of the execution of the music, it has more intangible qualities than obvious components, it is much more than the sum of its parts. You either have it or you don’t. And Moonlight Rhythm Society sure do have it. And then some.
Data is one of those easily infectious songs, swaggering along on a slight Latin beat, brass motifs breezing through or shooting out quick stabs to colour the proceedings whilst the guitar returns the gesture, throwing out slinky salvos or merely underlining or empowering what’s going on around it.
And when the guitar does get its moment in the spotlight, it has saved up all its best moves and lays out a spiralling solo, one which wanders around the beat, collides or compliments with the voices of the brass instrument and lays a trail of blues-soul goodness which we are able to follow all the way to the song’s conclusion…which, even at four and a half minutes, seems to come too soon, if you ask me. (And if you are reading this, you kinda did.)
It’s all a bit Santana-esque, which if you are navigating this sort of territory is about as high an accolade as you can get. It has the same sassy and sensual way about it, it combines rock weight with pop accessibility, it revels in Latin exotica and bluesy traditions, it is upbeat and immediate, cool, calm and collected. And it does all of that but sounds nothing other than a song of the here and now, which is exactly what it is.
That’s another of its charms and indeed one of the skills that lay at the heart of Moonlight Rhythm Society’s uniqueness. They may be working with some age-old music traditions, genres that have been explored and reworked for decades but somehow they always manage to come away with a sound that is nothing if not totally modern. They take the familiar and make it fresh.
The modern pop scene is full of style over substance, I guess it always has been, and how much more can we take? Who needs another brooding troubadour in a wide-brimmed hat trying to change the world with a working knowledge of A minor? Or a pop diva who writes lyrics by looking in a mirror? Or another band claiming to be reinventing disco for the modern age? Why don’t we embrace the truly talented, those able to create music with real depth and longevity, who deliver it with real passion and authenticity, who don’t need 27 co-writers and a plethora of guest stars rapping about….well, generally nothing at all. Why can’t we make bands like Moonlight Rhythm Society the new pop norm and songs like Data the benchmark by which to set the standards of pop to come?
At least I can dream. For now anyway!