moe.: No Guts, No Glory
moe., the jamband scene’s rock-oriented, improv-heavy stalwarts, will celebrate their 25th anniversary together in a few months—a key moment of reflection in any career. That’s especially true for a longstanding group beloved by a sizeable cult of fans, constantly pushing for development and also dependent on their back-catalog. No other band in the scene is both as resilient and as divisive, which is why their new album, No Guts, No Glory, while absolutely likeable, isn’t quite a revelation: This is the sound of a band getting older, comfortably, in a scene that sometimes would prefer some sort of evolution.
That means that longtime fans may love much of the familiar sounds here, and they should. The opening track, “Annihilation Blues,” blasts off with guitar propelled riffage and Chuck Garvey’s off-kilter vocals. It is immediately followed by another highlight, “White Lightning Turpentine,” which is full of octopus fingered arpeggios and pingpong marimba before hitting the kind of tempo change that signals what will likely be a killer moment live, and the wailing slide guitar takes a solo to mega-heights.
It’s not all majesty, though: The Rob Derhak-helmed, acoustic-driven “The Pines and the Apple Tree” comes off as half-thought, which is especially disappointing given that the album was originally conceived as an all-acoustic affair. “Silver Sun” is fascinating in its Pink Floydness—almost to the point that you expect the band to segue into “Time” rather than a jam of its own toward the end. If it’s intended as an homage, then it’s the kind that makes you wonder why it’s not just a straightforward cover.
That said, by the end of the album—following the “Crab Eyes”-esque “Little Miss Cup Half Empty” and the final, burning “Billy Goat,” there’s probably a problem if your head’s not bobbing, even if it’s in a totally recognizable way.