If you think your ears have heard all there is to hear in pop music, and your tired eyes have seen everything there is to see, then you probably haven't recently seen or heard Moxy FrÜvous. But then, as luck would have it, their excellent new Don Dixon-produced album, Thornhill, an exciting pure-pop creation for this successful and talented quartet, is in your hands just waiting to be heard.
Toronto-based, Moxy FrÜvous - Mike Ford on vocals, guitars; Murray Foster on vocals, bass; Jian Ghomeshi on vocals, drums; and Dave Matheson on vocals, accordion, banjos, and guitar, began at the dawn of the decade as buskers, a group of pals performing impromptu street shows almost entirely a cappella. In learning to engage the attention of self-absorbed city folk, the band became quite adept as street-level theatricality, humorous improvisation, and singing in pristine four-part harmony. Over the course of five albums, including an indie cassette debut which went Gold, the band has fine-tuned that street experience, that pop with a touch of vaudeville approach, with wry humour, smart lyrics, and a strong social consciousness.
"It's definitely a new musical standard for us," says Ghomeshi, adding that 250 dates a year helps grease the wheels of growth. "We're more of a band than we ever were. You know, you can put together a band, but sometimes it takes years to really become a band: a visceral, non-thinking, magical band. I really think it happened to us on this record."
From the Merseybeat pop opener, Half As Much, and the pleasantly McCartney-esque Sad Girl, to the warm melodicism of I Will Hold On, the subtle funk of Earthquakes, and the reverby spry/surf of Splatter Splatter, Thornhill touches on a prismatic array of pop hues without losing focus or clarity. On past efforts, like their Platinum selling 1994 major label debut, Bargainville, and the diverse You will Go To The Moon from 1987, Moxy FrÜvous walked the precarious line between producing a cohesive pop album and one that retains FrÜvous' unorthodox eclecticism, and their zany stage persona. Thornhill tosses that grab-bag approach aside for an album of pure pop thrills, minus the silliness; its no-filler, satin-smooth cohesion is a triumph for a band that has much to offer.
Producer Dixon guided the band's tremendous progress. "We'd d a take and it'd have a certain magic, but it wouldn't be perfect, like we usually insist on it being," says Ghomeshi, also a principal songwriter. "But Don's like, 'OK, let's move on. That's fine.' So there's a feel of having good players and good songs, but not to the point of overt perfection. Don was really important in bringing that relaxed attitude - as well as his experience and creativity - to the process."
"Fans buy us as a project, as a whole band, not one song, not one image. That makes a huge difference. The people we're attracting get what we do and they're in it for the long haul. As a performer, it's more satisfying to have this kind of fan." In the end, its Moxy Früvous' deeply held belief that sincere entertainment rules over all. "We hold the notion of entertaining our audience dearly," says Ghomeshi. "You just gotta give 'em a good show." Whether that means on record or in concert, the band delivers, night after night, spin after spin.
Moxy Früvous 1992
The B Album 1996
You Will Go To The Moon 1997
Live Noise 1998