MUZZY LUCTIN – Divine Intermission
Muzzy Luctin may well be the most misunderstood band in the Madison rock arena. Because they share members with Last Crack, Magic 7, Trinity James and other bands, they often get lumped into an old-school approach to rock music. This is a mistake. Madison has a reputation for eating its young. As soon as a band achieves some modicum of success they are generally shunned in their hometown for becoming sellouts; not nearly cool enough for the legion of garage rockers who don’t even have that snowball’s chance in hell. Achieving radio play will surely draw the ire and jealousy of your hometown peers; ask the few who cross the line into commercial radio as Muzzy has done with WJJO. But there is at least one good reason that few make it to the airwaves, despite the corporatization. This reason boils down to one thing: inconsistency.
Muzzy Luctin is at the top of their game. They consistently write solid tunes and they are very melodic. If you think this is the type of metal that speeds past you before you can grasp it, forget it. The hooks on their latest release, Divine Intermission, will sink in deep and won’t let go easily. Muzzy also work very hard for consistency in their production values. Rumor has it that this album was overdue in part because the band sent the album back for re-mastering several times. And we’re talking mastering in Nashville by Jim DeMain, who has worked for Elton John, Jimmy Buffet and a host of others. Talk about knowing what you want.
Divine Intermission rocks solidly from start to finish. Each of its eleven tracks are under five minutes long and only two exceed four minutes, proof alone that this band is adept at honing its craft, ridding itself of the excesses.
Muzzy’s sound is driven by guitarist extraordinaire Paul Schluter, who in many ways is the antithesis of hard-rock players. Schluter’s playing is restrained and efficient; he never goes over the top. Usually he’s providing backdrop in the way of chording, arpeggios and riffs. On “Angels/Devils,” however, he lets it rip with a fury of wah and flange, stepping up and taking a strong solo. But what really makes this record pop is the commanding, confident vocal performance turned in by Ken Thrift-Kennedy. The man is revitalized and has never looked and sounded healthier. In fact, it’s an odd phenomenon for a hard rock band when the vocals frequently outpower the guitar riffs. But this is exactly what happens on songs like “Lurch,” which sounds like a mid-album stallout until Thrift-Kennedy positively kicks it in the ass. At times these two elements blend in glorious cacophony as “Get to You” aptly demonstrates. Thrift-Kennedy also provides the watercolor paintings that adorn the exquisite layout which was done by Michael Kerwin at Nuclearview Design. Of course, Muzzy would be nowhere without a solid rhythm section. Onstage it’s easy to see just how tight and solid the team of drummer Mike Haefner and bassist Darren Soderholm are. Check out “Tear Me Down” and “Live with Yourself” for prime examples of the rhythm section making the song. Subtly but with assurance, the guys drive these songs home and then take them to bed, whether you’re paying attention or not. The album’s standout track, “Choice,” is where all the band’s components coalesce in perfect hard- pop splendor.
Muzzy is far too good a band to be lumped in with some of its alter-egos. They frequently outpace the mediocrity displayed by the audiences who still prefer live rock music to staying at home copulating with their hard drives. It’s time to crank it back up a notch. Muzzy needs and are deserving of our attention and support as aspiring rock artists. Inspiring and solid, Divine Intermission is hard proof of their worth and one of the best recordings of the year. It would be a pity if you were just too cool for it.