Walk the Moon group

Can style be substance? Can synth-pop have a baby in Ohio and let it claim the top of the pops? Is Jack White The Last Man Left In Rock? What the hell am I talking about?
  Let me digress and egress, my little egret, before I progress. It's my job.

  I was always a little amused, amazed and disgusted how '70s punk gave way to the seemingly passionless early post-Kraftwerk electronica of New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure et al and ad nauseam. Sweat and snarl gave way to eye shadow and the effete sound of keyboards as if played by limp pinkies (good name for a synth band, maybe, or even a happenin' post-folk, bearded, plaid-shirted suburban cross-dressing lumberjack musicians who actually afraid of trees and girls?).
  The sweaty passions of punk died off, the crotch-less sins of synth became the vogue sounds made by young men who evoked an aura of selves who may or may not have hung by their knees in a closet full of mirrors above a promising pile of Halloween candy.
  So to speak. Remember, this is my job.
  While I later rescinded my blockade on New Order (and Joy Division), for the most part I had no use for Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears or Talk Talk. But then again, spinning that shit at Mean Mr. Mustard's wasn't the worst post-college temp work I ever had. As long as I could add the Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," Time Zone's "World Destruction" and/or Grandmaster Flash's “White Lines,” I could stomach the other stuff.
  Turns out I was the town's Zach Starkey before Zach Starkey became this town's real Zach Starkey. That was quite a job, being that cool. But I did it---with gusto. And without the make-up.
  Now, from Cincinnati with a little help from Columbus, comes Walk The Moon, the energetic synth-pop band which may do a couple things:

1) Fill the void left by Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails now that the ol' screamer's past his prime;

2) Return Ohio to its rightful place as Most Important State In America When It Comes To War, Politics and Music.

  We provided William Tecumseh Sherman, who tore up the south and came up behind Lee's rear in the Civil War, with a near-majority of Ohioan farm boys filling Sherman's regiments; we decide who the f*ck is gonna be president; and we invented rock'n'roll in Cleveland thanks to Allan Freed, a story I care not of its veracity.

  Walk The Moon played a sold-out show at the LC Pavilion April 2. I went because I needed fodder for your blood-hungry eyes. But the fodder they weren't, fond of them I am. I came to slay, I heard them play and I will candidly admit, the boys are OK.

They're from Ohio, I have to boost tourism here. It's my job.

  The singer and main writer and weenie-keyboard player's name is Nick Petricca--notice the similarity between his last name and someone else's whom you adore? Which means he's ethnic (Slavic/Italian thanks to that vowel ending, hmmm?) and there is nothing cooler than Ohio ethnic.

  The rhythm section of bassist and drummer are from Columbus. (I think Dr John and nearly entirely Columbus-bred band should make an album with Walk The Moon--as long as its produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach who is from...Ohio!).

  They opened with “Different Colors,” the social-message-tinged first song from their second album, last year's “Talking Is Hard.” Hunh, I thought, sorta synthy, sorta danceable--but nothing I could hate! It's good-natured knockabout groove wouldn't ruin anyone's day. Soon they shall suck, I figured but did not pray.

  “Tightrope” quickly followed. The sheer danceability I'm sure has had kids listening to it in study hall and then dancing down the hallway. Not quite “Rock'n'Roll High School.” But my sphincter was relaxing and its love of hate was giving way to love of happy feet. I was moving my hips in place.

  “Down In the Dumps” was the crucial third WTM blast: sad song lyrics delivered in a yoga-'robics limb-stretching, butt-shaking true '80s cocktail of utterly catchy chorus, python-like bass line, twinkling keys and a guitar chirping like a Son of Edge. What was not to like? The song's narrative ended up hand-in-hand with the inspirational monster bass hits reminiscent of the best of New Order.

  As a pop music detective, I declare Walk The Moon as fine a group of pop music thieves as there is. They do it without leaving fingerprints. They can strip an era and leave it on blocks while they run laughing like perps to the top of the pops, the elements brilliantly re-welded together into an almost entirely new model. I mean, the '65 Mustang's design didn't come out of thin air, did it? It just seemed as if it did, it was so craftily crafted.

  Thus it is with Walk The Moon. For my money (aw, hell, who am I shittin'? I ain't paid for a show in 30 years; well, I did pay a bling-covered scalper a c-note for a Barbra Streisand ducat at her Schott show but I think I got reimbursed, lemme check my W-2 form) “Spend Your $$$” is almost my favorite WTM song. It's many synthy-rock-y virtues aside, our boy buckeye Mr. Petricca sings in a falsetto and pulls it off! How many wanker-rockers can do that? And it's something he does frequently. And he doesn't come off as a Samoan black-fingernailed Goth loser.

  Dare I say this band is--gulp--actually, ahem....wholesome? While they don't have any black in them, they're sort of the great anti-NIN. In other words, they're positive, not nihilists of negativity. And as much as I respect Reznor's giant genre-defining work in screamo-synth-Industrial-rock, I found Petricca and company have a veritable bottomless trick bag of arrangement ideas. With two albums under their belt and an EP or two, they have not seemed to have reached their limit.

  Where Trent exhibits the foul self-loathing of the soul, WTM is fun with a banging beat, sometimes a world-beating groove, loads of positive energy and a true band feel of front man (who occasionally bangs a tom-tom between keyboard signatures), bass, drums and guitar, they can qualify as indie rock.

  But to these ancient ears I hear their musical heart and it is in synth. But if you examine that sentence, I mean every word. What these boys have is heart--something that was missing from the '80s. Thus style can be substance if there is that oft-amiss ingredient of the most human of organs. I pronounced Walk The Moon alive on arrival with a prognosis of open-ended artistic success if nothing else. Because they do have a collective brain, too. As Joe Strummer once said, the future is unwritten.
  And they stand proclaimed. And I'm just doin' my job, mama.

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