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Moving Units – Dangerous Dreams

Palm Pictures, 2004

No, I do not love the eighties art.  Well, that’s what it looks like to me.  If I had to title it I would call the piece “Smurfette Gives the Erotic Demon a Slap”.  Obviously, it may not be the album art that truly makes one want to know what band is behind it, but the name of the band reminded me that I had wanted to check out Moving Units at some point.  You know how it is; you may not know why certain band names stick in your mind, but you still feel obligated to at least say you tried to give them a shot.  Plus, I would hate to find myself in that awkward situation eight years later when an old friend says “Hey, did you ever check out Moving Units like I emphatically recommended eight years ago?”  Yeah, definitely don’t want to break out the umm-ahh-errrs.  I’m preparing myself for all situations, you see.

Before I get into the value of “Emancipation”, the first song off the album, I have to admit that at certain points throughout the record vocalist Johan Boegli gets on the nerves.  When he’s simply singing at his even tone, then his voice can concurrently convey cool (alliteration points!) attitude and mysteriousness.  However, when he enters the upper registers it sounds like he is either getting kicked in the balls or is whining that his toy was taken away.  I know he wishes to emit spontaneous energy once in awhile, but it’s too much of too much.  As great as a band may sound, if the vocalist is deemed taxing by a listener then it doesn’t even matter if the band exists.

Thankfully, Boegli doesn’t get carried away too often and tends to deliver songs in a more subdued yet pained way. “Between Us and Them” proves to be one of the better tracks on the record due to its powerfully catchy bass hook and, of course, the upbeat danceworthy tempo.  I also like the moodiness of the keyboards in “Anyone”, which provides a beat that people can shuffle emotionally to.  Yeah, I suppose the track won’t trigger an indie party to start hopping, but it definitely stands out amongst all the maxed out burst occurring around it.  Even the last track, which usually has a low chance of succeeding of being anything worthwhile, is actually pretty good.  “Turn Away” mainly features a simple guitar riff and Boegli’s slowly building presence.  After a whole lot of drum thumpin’ and head noddin’, the final song is a very good (and much needed) reprieve.

Unfortunately, not all of the songs are nearly as catchy as “Between Us and Them” nor as thoughtful as “Turn Away”.  “Going For Adds” is a radio-themed tune that, well, may have played itself off the radio with its jilting guitar and the ultra repetitive “everybody’s on the radio” line.  “Birds of Prey” sounds excellent 80% of the way through, but then Boegli sounds like he’s getting his teeth pulled during the final hurrah by screeching out a few painful “aaaaaaaaah!”s.  Too bad about that one.  Most of the other tracks have their moments, but a lot of it sounds the same.  Quick cymbals, rapid guitar/bass, wailing from Boegli … on repeat.

Have a listen to Moving Units at their website or MySpace page.  My favorite track on the record, “Between Us and Them”, has its own fan-made video on Youtube for a more visual experience!  Check out those sideburns…

Unfortunately, though Moving Units and Bloc Party used similar methods to drive up the rush, I feel that Moving Units falls short of making a true impact on this effort.  As mentioned before, I think it’s mainly due to not having too many standout tracks and instead finding a common ground amongst all of the tracks.  As in, everything’s so-so and digestible but not great enough to make everyone demand more.  I still think it’s a pretty solid album that has some good songs, but I can understand why people weren’t talking about Moving Units a whole lot back in 2004.  These guys were victims of a trend that other bands were doing better.

Moving Units is still around making music as evidenced by their latest EP “Tension War”.  They still have a little of that dance rock element, but the music and vocals sound so much better.  In fact, “Until She Says” is a great tune that features a toned down Boegli along with what sounds like electronic piano.  Even though Moving Units may not have had the best record out in 2004, I think they’re certainly worth a look nowadays.

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