Sunday, January 11, 2004

Moth sounds cynical, with reason

Concert review

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

Brad Stenz sings with his tongue planted so firmly in his cheek it's a wonder he can get out the words.

Stenz, the lead singer of the Cincinnati rock band Moth, has good cause to sing a song of sarcasm. It could be that these days he's a bit jaded about life in general and life as a musician in particular.

In 2002 Moth released a terrific major-label debut record. Then Moth's record company handed over millions of dollars to Mariah Carey as a means of forcing the songstress to take her failing career elsewhere, and Moth was dropped in the cost-cutting aftermath.

Saturday night at Bogart's, Moth held a record-release show that marked the band's return to the ranks of the unsigned recording artists and proved great music can be made with or without the help of a major label.

Stenz and guitarist Bob Gayol, backed by the new locally based rhythm section of bassist Bill Buzek and drummer Kevin Hogle, performed most of the songs from the release, Drop Deaf , in a 40-minute performance as concise and hard-hitting as the CD itself.

It was a parade of would-be Top-40 hits, songs in search of a radio format that programs good, catchy rock, if such a format exists. The show's first seven songs were off Drop Deaf, which follows the Virgin Records release Provisions, Fiction and Gear as another edition of punked-up power-pop, combining the energetic songcraft of Cheap Trick with the world-weary lyrical vitriol of the Buzzcocks. The band closed the show with four songs from Provisions , including the single "I See Sound."

Given Moth's music-biz woes, there's more context to Stenz's biting lyrics in the new songs. In "On Top," when Stenz sang, "Stupid girl, drinking pop, lost your world, you got dropped," he could have been singing about himself and his band.

Stenz's songwriting is definitely Moth's strongpoint. Pick most any new song the band played - the title track, "Three Choices," "Immune to Gravity," "Constantly On." Each would be the best song of any other pop-rock band in town. And Moth has a whole bunch of them.

Two local groups, Fizzgig and Promenade, opened the show. Fizzgig played longer than Moth and won over the crowd with hook-filled songs and youthful exuberance, and pop-rock craftsmen Promenade featured songs from their latest album Part One.

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Moth sounds cynical, with reason

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