[Along with standard Moon press pic with text: INDIANA DEBUT: The Canadian band Moxy Fruvous will perform Thursday at the Second Story in Bloomington]
By far the freshest, most entertaining disc of 1997 comes from a Canadian band called Moxy Fruvous. The 13 tracks on You Will Go to the Moon take cues from the Beatles, Beck and musicial satirist Tom Lehrer in ways that are pleasantly familiar yet also brand new.
Listen to Lee, which sounds like Brecht meets Cole Porter. Or the hilarious banjo/hip-hop of Michigan Militia. Or the four-part harmonies on Kick in the A-- ("That guy who's stealing my parking space, he gets a . . .").
From song to song, the disc is filled with delightful surprises, all exceptionally well performed.
Moxy Fruvous makes its Indiana debut Thursday at Second Story in Bloomington. Admission is $3. Show time is 9 p.m. Call (812)336-6599 for more information.
Started on the streets
The story of Moxy Fruvous begins in 1990, when the four members - Dave Matheson, Jian Ghomeshi, Mike Ford, and Murray Foster, who grew up in a Toronto suburb called Thornhill - started singing a capella on street corners.
Their performances caught the attention of a producer from Canadian public radio, who commission a series of topical songs that got airplay across the country.
The name they chose, Moxy Fruvous (pronounced FROO-vus) means nothing. "I won't bore you with a made-up story." Matheson says. "You can make up your own."
But there is a small tale.
"It's one of those situations where you can't figure out what somebody's saying on a record," he says. "It sounds like they're saying 'fruvous.' Somebody had a record and it went 'fruvous and awestruck' and we just didn't know what it was. So 'Fruvous' became a word of its own.
In 1993, Moxy Fruvous released its first disc, Bargainville, a grab bag of songs the foursome had been singing on the streets. The record came out in the United States to vast public indifference.
A second disc, Wood - "which has a band-influenced, mellow, almost-country-rock vibe to it," Matheson says - wasn't released in this country.
Matheson says that for album No. 3, the group wanted to make a record that continued its musical evolution but also worked together thematically.
"We put a lot of different elements and fiferent styles of music we like within it," he says. "It's always that balance - are you going to make a movie or a bunch of commercials?"
You'd have to call You Will Go to the Moon a movie -- a light but sophisticated comedy. The group deliberately cribs some familiar passages -- the Last Train to Clarksville opening of Michigan Militia, various Beatlesque harmonies and melodies, the Carpenters' Sing meets bubble gum on Your New Boyfriend.
"We're all such sponges, and we've been in the line of the speakers since we were babies," Matheson says cheerfully. "The influences are so thick. It's like, 'Right on, let's use it.'"
Along with those tunes come lyrics like "Happy Birthday, Tricia/I'm in the Michigan militia/Fighting for your honor/like would any Afrikaner" and "You fill me with big emotion/we'll jump in the back/turn up the 8-track/I've got Billy Ocean."
The common ground is irreverence and humor, two elements that can be tough to sell.
"And people do like their angst via music a lot of times, especially these days," Matheson says. "I think we're fairly light on the angst. A lot of other bands are taking that corner."
Let them. Moxy Fruvous has everything else to offer.