Lo Moda: Gospel Store Front
Everyone these days is so hot for postpunk--the years between 1978 and 1983 when all of the morlocks who crawled, irradiated, out of punk's ground zero began to mutate those three famous chords that were punk's conceptual Christmas present--that it sounds like everyone's forgotten all the great music prepunk. Well, Lo Moda's Gospel Store Front--the second CD release through the record album wing of Lo Moda frontman Peter Quinn's Creative Capitalism art-text-music conglomerate--proves that some people haven't forgotten. In the songs' keening strings and 3:15-on-a-Sunday-morning, A-train bounce you can hear the dizzy viola of John Cale and the elemental rum-pa-pum of Mo Tucker's drums. Opener "Seduction" finds a bouncing groove that's somewhere between Motown's foursquare razzle-dazzle and the highway star momentum of a Jonathan Richman raised in Germany at the height of Krautrock. And maybe it's just the associative subtitle, but the guitar part on "Get It Ready (Gospel Song)" sure sounds like it could have come off an early Impressions or Isley Brothers single--at least before Jimi Hendrix joined--and likewise the riff on "Late Night (Part Two)" would do Del "Runaway" Shannon proud.
But what Lo Moda really shares with all this music is simplicity and repetition, two things many people these days only think started when the Ramones ambled into CBGBs. Lo Moda's songs are neatly arranged out of often just three or four musical elements--a revolving five-note bass line, a squeaking two-note viola "hook" that answers at the end of each bar, a handclap, and a lone crack on a high-hat, for instance--an aesthetic strategy that Quinn crystallizes on "Les Jardins (de l'oubli)" when he sings,"your beat is too complicated." "Maybe You"--a 1:41 sketch for shaker, circular string scrape, and Quinn's haikulike is-it-a-verse-or-is-it-a-chorus?--outright teases you with the surprise of a flicker of piano and a parping horn in its last six seconds. But even these additions are of minimal means. The lyrics are as pared back as the music. Quinn is big on four- or five-line repeating runs of phrase that subtly change on their last two or three words: "And your heart is like a garden/ And your heart is in the cities/ And your heart is confiscated/ And your heart is on the table." His somewhat flat, nagging delivery is as important to the mantralike nature of the music as the drums or guitar. Though the band is hardly funky and no one would mistake the atmosphere of Gospel Store Front--imagine standing on the corner waiting for the bus after midnight on one of the coldest days of the year after just having your heart handed to you--for a singin', dancin' good time, when its musical and lyrical cells are circling each other, Lo Moda is one of Baltimore's most rhythmically compelling bands.