Moist Keep Their Legacy Afloat on 'End of the Ocean'

BY Ian GormelyPublished Jan 14, 2022

The knock on so many Canadian '90s alt-rock bands was that they couldn't make it in the States. Try as they might, Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good, the Tea Party and their contemporaries could never quite convince Americans that their respective sonic flavours were needed in a country already drowning in Lives, Everclears and Collective Souls.
Popularity as a measurement of artistic success has always been dubious. But the dilemma these bands faced then is a useful prism through which to hear new work from any artist whose time in the pop-culture sun has dimmed. In an era when thousands of new songs are released every day, is this music for anyone beyond a core group of diehard fans?
Moist, the Vancouver-via-Montreal five-piece who lit up airwaves in the second half of the '90s with hits like "Push" and "Resurrection" (and happened to sell a million discs, mostly in Canada, in the process) certainly think so. Built on the broad theme of the emptiness of overconsumption, End of the Ocean, their fifth album (second since reforming in 2013) threads this tricky needle of needing to please nostalgia hounds while still creating something of lasting merit.
Like its predecessor, 2014's Glory Under Dangerous Skies, the album ditches the broader sonic palette introduced on Mercedes Five and Dime and singer David Usher's solo work in favour of a focus on the basics: guitar riffs and Usher's knack for impassioned vocal hooks. The band have always been a bit self-serious, but in the '90s, who wasn't? Usher remains a master of wringing drama from weighty subject matter. Bass player Jeff Pearce returned to the fold after sitting out the last few years to focus on family, and he lets his presence be known with rumbling bass lines that anchor "Put the Devil on It" and the title track, two of the record's standouts.
Guitarist Mark Makoway produced and mixed the record, nixing individual flashiness for a clean, cohesive sound. But at their best, Usher was a live wire, his voice exploding out of speakers while Makoway's guitars and Kevin Young's piano trills filled the space in between ("Silver" showcased this dynamic to a tee). Things here are more compact, the songs more streamlined. Usher is reigned in and Young's keyboards can be hard to even pick out in the mix. It's a safe choice that nevertheless leaves things feeling a little anodyne.
"Tarantino (Bullet Kill Sex Love Thrill)" is probably the most Moist-esque song on the album, but the band are at their best when they're at their most unpredictable. The keys and vocals-driven "High On It" pulls the band outside their usual lane and is all the better for it.
Like so many of their '90s peers, Moist are a legacy act. Most of the fans popping their name into Spotify's search bar are looking for a hit of the past. Moist (one has to assume) know this. End of the Ocean deftly scratches that itch while pushing things forward, just enough to keep things interesting. It's what you want, it's what you need, it's what you wanted [them] to be.
(Known Accomplice)

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