October 19, 1993
Journalists love to label everything. That's what we get paid for. But, mark my words, we're going to be sprinting for our thesauruses every time Moxy Früvous rolls into town.
Post-modern cabaret? Neo-vaudeville for the nuclear age? Monty-Python-meets-Kurt-Weill with a dash of Nylons doo-wop. Deconstructionist, satirical pop for Generation X?
Cataloguing the Toronto quartet is a tough task. Yet, judging from Moxy Früvous's 120-minute plus show at MacPherson Playhouse Tuesday night, it's safe to say these guys will be around for a while (okay, okay...their five-album record deal sort of ensures that).
The band played one of those fine, fine pop music concerts that are impossible to forget.
Energy - Are these huys on some mystery steroids or what? Jean Ghomeshi, a mutant cross between Tiny Tim and Jon Luvitz, whirled around the stage like a member of some obscure Central American Indian tribe. Mike Ford, sporting black dancer's tights and a baggy shirt, sat down and twirled like a top on his rear end. Bandmates David Matheson and Murray Fosteralso appeared to have overdosed on mass quantities of Wheaties.
Seraphic harmonies - Think of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys with a little Housemartins a cappella on the lide (lebelling again, I know). The four-part harmonies are wonderfully clear and rich. It helps that the instruments are mixed way down. Sure, the Früvous guys play guitar, bass, and drums. But this is primarily a vocal group (all those nights busking on the streets of Toronto have paid off). And they can start and stop one a filed-down dime. The Früvous Four are incredibly well rehearsed - navigating comlex songs and arrangements with apparent ease.
Brains - An Einstein intellect is not (surprise, surprise) a prerequisite to pop music success (remember Slade?). Nonetheless, Moxy Füvous has a platinum-selling debut album despite a formidable collective intelligence that's obvious in performance. The songs are inventive and structurally elaborate - almost too elaborate at times. And their satirical lyrics are college-smart witty. You want brainy? What other band writes a song - My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors - that name-drops Mario Puzo, W. P. Kinsella, Margeret Atwood, Robertson Davies, and Micheal Ondaatje in the same verse?
I rest my case.
High pitched squeals of delight - Moxy Früvous attracted an oddish audience. It had, essentially, two components: 40-and-ups who've obviously heard these talented lads on CBC radio, and 25-and-unders who've prbably heard the band on college radio. The former looked bewildered as the youngsters's high-decibel shreiks were unleashed near the end of the show. And the latter knew all the lyrics to the band's rap-theatre version of the Dr. Seuss book, Sam I Am, which drew the loudest cheering of the night.
Something for everybody - Moxy Früvous, having charted on alternative radio, has something of an underground band status. This is underscored by its strange theatrics and de riguer irony of the lyrics. This is partly why young people like the band. (The band is an alternative act, but more so because its roots are so unconventional. Moxy Früvous is more the product of a theatrical sensibility - i.e. cabaret, musical and vaudville - than pop music, i.e. rock, gospel, blues, reggae, punk, et al.)
And for the oldsters, that is, anyone over the age of 25, there's plenty. Take the over-the-top version of Minnie the Moocher, or the surprisingly straight take on Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now. Or how about my favorite, a tune that grafted ABBA's Dancing Queen with Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side (sounds weird, but consider this inspired line: "Plucked his legs, then he was a... Dancing Queen"!)