September 4, 2012

Moonlight Mile

When I first heard that Kevin Morby is from Kansas City it made sense because I’ve always thought of Kansas City as the very middle, a mix of everything, and his songs remind me of so much. But then I talked with him last week and he said New York is his main influence, New York and travel, and he doesn’t think he could ever be a Midwesterner again, and that made even more sense because New York is a much deeper middle. I told him it’s tough to write about The Babies because their music turns up phrases I’ve heard before and I love but can’t quite put my finger on. I hate music writing that’s full of other artists' names. This didn’t seem to offend him. I asked him what’s his favorite X record and he said, I feel like I should say Los Angeles, but for the last year it’s been Wild Gift

I interviewed his parents, too. They’re real nice people. The next day, Kevin’s dad, Jim, sent me a picture of him and his wife at Gilley’s in Branson. Morby’s mom, Sandy, told me that Kevin once got a fake ID and saw Arcade Fire at a little bar in Kansas, and now Arcade Fire is her favorite band, after the Babies. Jim said he once played a Bob Dylan tape on a boat in Kansas and said to Kevin, I think you’ll like this, and years later Kevin had that same Dylan tape in a list of favorites. So it's kind of full circle, Jim said. He and Sandy told me their son has turned them into hipsters, and that they took him to see Springsteen at the Sprint Center, great seats, and he really liked that.

Moonlight Mile” starts with some guitar chords, and a beat with a forward lean, and Cassie Ramone sings, Oo ooooo ooo. Her voice is washed out with old electricity, so it sounds even ooooooooier. Then Morby sings, You better watch your step. Out on the Moonlight Mile. His voice is raspy, angry and desperate and cool all at the same time. I told his mom and dad he has a great voice, and they thanked me. He really does. I didn't ask Morby about the Rolling Stones, but I got to thinking about their song, so I looked up the lyrics. I always thought that in the climax Mick Jagger was wailing, I want it all, but it's really: I'm coming home. When I first got this single, I liked the B-side better. The beat and tune are kind of off center, and it builds and builds until it’s all coming at you: There are places that you gotta go! The song moves herky-jerky, reminds me of the crazy kid who spazzes out onto the dance floor at the end of every 80s teen movie, right after the lead guy and the lead girl kiss, and all the other kids follow and bounce around and wave their arms in the air, and the credits roll, except it's grungier.

This is the best 45 since Real Estate’s “Out of Tune” / “Reservoir”. I listened to it over and over this afternoon, both sides, very loud. I paced a circle in my living room and moved my arm up and down like I was playing some kind of guitar/drum thing, one handed. I picked a fight with Squeek. I played the record so many times that I almost couldn’t stand it anymore. Then my wife came home and I had to turn it down. Now we’re three quarters of the way through a bottle of wine, and we’re listening to Faust.

This limited-edition lifesaver is available now at Woodsist. The full-length arrives November 13, from the same place.

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