Moxy Früvous

The Bottom Line Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


It's always a bit of pot luck when you pop a new Moxy Fruvous CD on. Which incarnation of the band is going to show up? The quirky humorists of "King Of Spain" and "My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors"? The politics of "River Valley" or "Michigan Militia"? The subtle, heartbreaking pop of "Fly"? Rather like musical Russian roulette, you never know if the gun is going to be loaded. In the case of the Frulads' seventh and newest release, Thornhill, it's at best a mixed bag, half a clip of musical bullets.

Thornhill is named after the Toronto suburb where the four members of Moxy Fruvous grew up and met, and in many ways it tries to be a tribute to the music they grew up listening to. The obvious Beatles influence always present in Fruvous' music is there, along with some Byrds, a bit of Led Zeppelin, and a decent dose of seventies harmonies like Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The production of Don Dixon (REM, The Smithereens) doesn't hurt; Dixon knows how to handle those kind of harmonies, and with a few exceptions his production is above reproach.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Yet, with all this, on a very base level Thornhill doesn't work. It's not a bad CD, precisely, but it is rather an unsatisfying one, especially when compared to the band's past work. A good deal of Fruvous' appeal is their energy, exuberance, and quirky sense of humour and timing, and a lot of that is absent on Thornhill, as if they settled into the studio with the intention to write a Serious Album, and then got overwhelmed by the capital letters. I hate to compare current work with past, but the moment I was done listening to Thornhill I put on Fruvous' 1995 CD Wood, and Thornhill, although similar in feel to that CD, is a weaker work.

There are some high points to Thornhill. "Independence Day" is a well-woven extended metaphor on breakup and loss, "Downsizing" is a heartbreaking look at losing one's job and one's life, and "My Poor Generation" is a tongue-in-cheek analysis of the Eighties' kids and their bleak outlook ("Maybe corporate raiders got greedy in the '80s and bought up all the direction...") "Sad Girl" and "If Only You Knew" are nice as well, and "Splatter Splatter" is a funny, tongue-in-cheek look at the media of Fruvous' childhood (and one of the few times it seems the band relaxes and has fun).

But for every 'nice' song, there's a weak counterpart. "You Can't Be Too Careful" is derivative and dull, "Earthquakes" is just boring, and "Hate Letter" is a feeble attempt at being Hall and Oates that should have been left in the studio, its production and mix muddy. "I Will Hold On", the first single, isn't precisely bad, but limps along, never quite hitting its stride, as if the band was on Valium that day. The last word I ever expected to use about a Moxy Fruvous album is "mediocre," but Thornhill comes dangerously close.

I know there's a better CD in Moxy Fruvous than Thornhill. We've had better than this already; Wood, Bargainville, and Live Noise come to mind. But this trip into the band's past is as fuzzy as a flashback sequence and stilted as a bad Star Trek episode, and is for Fruvous completists only.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Bottom Line Records, and is used for informational purposes only.