One of the time honoured traditions in music is the formation of a supergroup. Made up of notable members of already successful bands, the supergroup is often an outlet for these artists to try work outside of their comfort zones and with other mutually respected musicians. It’s pretty rare that any of these supergroups ever eclipse the popularity of each of their members main projects. Most of these bands only really ever represent an interesting curiosity. Enter Muzz. Made up of Paul Banks, leader of New York City’s post punk royalty Interpol, Matt Barrick, crackerjack drummer of Jonathan Fire*Eater and The Walkmen and Josh Kaufman, producer and multi instrumentalist from the group Bonny Light Horseman. Muzz has the credentials to be known as a supergroup and their debut self titled album, dropping June 5th via Matador Records, may not have the goods to make fans forget about each of their individual bands past works, it definitely will add to the wonderful repertoire of albums each has been a part of.
Muzz is a very different beast from what you would expect to hear from each of its three members. From the album’s opening and lead single “Bad Feelings”, the band is more soulful than you’d guess. Bank’s work with Interpol has always been on the more intense side of things. His beautiful baritone guiding that bands songs through their journeys but here he is softer and more nuanced while Barrick keeps a steady back beat, holding everything together until it bursts open with a gorgeous saxophone solo in the track’s coda. “Evergreen” coasts in with a jaunty bass line and some muted tom work. Muzz are certainly adept at creating a mood and the mood here is defiantly dreamy. Darkness plays on the songs edges until bursts of colour, a bright guitar line, a wonderful synth pad and the glorious harmonies of the chorus kick in, to round out its lovingly crafted textures. “Red Western Sky”, the album’s standout track, moves along on a slight western charm with an ear worm of a vocal melody. One of the great things about this collection of songs is the seemingly deliberate nature of their production. The overall vibe of the album seems so suitable for strolling the streets during sunset. The tempos are slightly languid, perfect for sharing on a summer evening. “Everything Like It Used To Be” is full of great texture. A string section mournfully plays underneath Barrick’s brush propelled groove while guitars float in and around Bank’s deeply sung vocal. “Broken Tamborine” feels like it could be on the score of a spaghetti western. The piano driven, tom filled track is perfect fodder for a drive through the desert. “Knuckleduster”, which wouldn’t sound out of place on a later era Walkmen album, manages to amp the proceedings up a bit with a great drum pattern courtesy of Barrick, some sneaky theremin and a breathy vocal performance from Banks.
By the time we get to the conclusion of Muzz’s debut, “Trinidad”, with its delayed guitar lines and bellowing french horns, the band has firmly staked it’s claim as counterpoints to each of its members past projects. The songs featured here are very well written, mature, sharply observed and featuring wonderfully restrained performances. While the album may not eclipse anything that previously lit us up from Interpol, The Walkmen or Bonny Light Horseman, the work on display here is full of charm and grace. Muzz may be saddled under the supergroup denomination but their genuine care to the craft of this record should hopefully allow them to have listeners treat this as its own thing; a beautifully made album from three very talented artists.
review by Adam Fink