A cynic would say that Midnight Moan would make a good Stones cover band. A close listen to their forthcoming album Comes in Phases (yeah, they like that kind of innuendo) reveals that they’ve listened closely to the band they most resemble to the point of often being indistinguishable from the Glimmer Twins, from their golden age in the late 60s through the Some Girls period. Again, a cynic might say why bother, the Stones did it first and did it better. On the other hand, if you’re going to rip somebody off, you might as well steal from the best. They’re at the Gutter bowling alley in Williamsburg at 11 PM on April 4.
The opening track, Mulberry has drummer Ricky Gordon doing a stone cold take on the Charlie Watts shuffle, right to the point where Joe Sweeney’s bass rises on the turnaround – the tune itself sounds like White Hassle doing the Stones. While the band’s frontman – who goes by “APB” – has a lot of Mick’s vocal tics down cold, he doesn’t seem to be trying to ape him completely (or if he is, he’s missing the mark). The low-key sax chart and the layers of burning midrange and twanging, trebly guitars from Brian Baker and Steve Cuiffo complete the picture.
The second cut, Short Stay sounds like a Stones demo, or the early Dolls, with loud, clattering drums and slurry Dead Boys chord changes. The closest approximation of the actual thing here is Just Yet – it could be a low-key semi-acoustic slow-burner from Let It Bleed, with a tasty blend of acoustic and open G-tuned electric guitars, organ in at just the perfect place, a spot-on Keith-circa -1969 solo and all kinds of allusions to white stuff.
What I Need bookends what sounds like the Stones covering Wild Thing around the time of Exile, with a reverb-fueled Smokestack Lightning vamp. “You like to take my hand? You best put down your arm,” the singer asserts. Maybe Someday is the closest thing to a track from Exile here. “If only you missed me I wouldn’t need whiskey, I’d be just as drunk as I need – I wouldn’t seek solace in everything lawless, I’d follow wherever you lead”, he promises, “And I’d order another!”
Room 1009 adds a little extra Memphis to a low-key Some Girls groove, a surprisingly vivid Almost Famous-style tableau. You Better Leave Room looks back to a bluesy, piano-spiced Beggars Banquet sway. Better Than Good strongly suggests that the band has been getting into a little riff-rocking Here Come the Miracles-era Steve Wynn along with all the Stones stuff; likewise, the album’s strongest, most original and most biting track, the eerie, nocturnal Turn Yourself Over. Triple Letter puts a lo-fi spin on a generic It’s Only Rock N Roll-style number; the album ends with You Do It Again, bringing it full circle with a sardonic White Hassle vibe.
Fifteen years ago in this city, there were probably at least a couple dozen scruffy wannabe Stones acts playing places like Lakeside and the Continental. Fifteen years before that, there were probably hundreds. A lot of people sneered and called them bar bands – which they were. But groups like Midnight Moan, derivative as they are, might make some of us wish we hadn’t been so dismissive of bands like that because compared to most of the rock coming out of Brooklyn these days, they’re a hell of a lot more fun.