Pain, melancholy and despair influence some of the greatest music ever made. Schubert's mental instability bred some of his greatest pieces. The suicides of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith veil their music in uncanny echoes of their own biographies. Ian Curtis, Mark Eitzel, Nick Cave, and Jeff Buckley - all of their music is drenched in anger, dread and regret, all of them great, most of them dead.
Yet somehow none of them ever make me want to dance.
Los Angeles' Moving Units do, while still expressing the frustration and violence inherent to great music.
"The music itself is what we use to express our own frustrations and shortcomings in our own lives," said singer/guitarist Blake Miller. "It seems right that the music should be cathartic and reckless and uninhibited. The place I'm coming from when I write is a very melancholy point of view. I've always felt like an outsider."
If you go...
|Moving Units with Chinese Stars and Kill Me Tomorrow |
Listening to their soon-to-be released full-length debut Dangerous Dreams is a little like attending a dance party in a dungeon. The record is wet with a base energy that seems more channeled through the music than generated by it.
"Elements of paranoia are juxtaposed against more emotionally charged melodies and tones in the music," said Miller. "It's about tapping into primitive emotional impulses and using that to portray feelings and emotions and urges that aren't exactly appropriate on the street."
In a way, all of Miller's talk of primitive impulses and urges goes back to Moving Units' own roots as a band. In 1999, the Los Angeles' music scene was directionless, still suffering from the hangover of hard rock. Rather than sit by complacently and watch the scene become subsumed beneath its own slick, glittery surface, Miller decided to do something about it.
"A lot of bands that people know about today fled the West Coast. A lot of bands we were friends with ended up moving to N.Y. But we liked the city we lived in and we were comfortable there. So when we first started playing, we felt like it was sort of a body blow to the stagnancy that had crept into the scene," Miller said. "At first there was kind of stunned silence. After a few months more bands started cropping up because no one had been doing anything with that kind of anarchistic flair."
Of course, decadent anarchy you can dance to has fallen en vogue lately. And while Moving Units make dancing easy, it's hard to place them in the same category as bands like the Rapture or Franz Ferdinand. Indie rock's recent resurgence hasn't exactly vaulted them into the limelight, but with a recent tour in the United Kingdom, they've found their audience has drifted closer to the surface and further from the underground.
"When we began as a band, it was the underground that embraced us and the cool kids that name-checked us," said Miller. "Now the sort of kids who come up to us are wearing Modest Mouse T-shirts and just found out about them six months ago. But it doesn't really bother me. At the worst, I find it amusing.
"There's an element of a fan base out there and who appreciates the spirit of what we're doing and finds the irony applicable to what they do. Then there's other people who take a literal point of view and think us to be snobbish or sensationalist. We know who we are as people and we have no regrets. I think we're content to accept the random nature of putting something out there without trying to control or dictate things that seem to be nonsensical or contradictory. I accept that."
Moving Units, Chinese Stars and Kill Me Tomorrow will play at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole St., on Sunday. Admission is $8 and the show is all ages.