It's no longer acceptable to call the Wild Moccasins "cute." The Houston quintet still does cute things, like toss wads of paper back and forth with the crowd and shower them with Silly String during their set, but they no longer have to get by on charm and enthusiasm alone (if they ever did). The songs are more than enough. Opening with disco-fied headrush "Skin Collision Past," the title track to next month's debut full-length, the Moccasins sailed through a wide swath of upbeat pop styles through ten songs from Collision and late-2008 EP Microscopic Metronomes. None of the five band members stopped bouncing, dancing or swaying for hardly a second, inspiring a similar reaction from the capacity crowd, a good portion of whom joined the Moccasins onstage during Silly-String closer "It's Health." The Moccasins certainly have precursors - co-frontman Cody Swann cops to Belle & Sebastian and the Strokes in this Spinner.com interview he did right before SXSW - but the songs go by so fast and in such a kaleidoscopic blend of skiffle, ska (quite a bit of ska, actually) Phil Spector harmonies and periodic traces of Blondie/New Order dance-rock that it's impossible to trace them back to any one band or genre. Thursday, in a way, they reminded Aftermath of Broken Social Scene: A jam band that's far too infatuated with pop to ever get bogged down by needless noodling. Zahira Guitierrez's breathy vocals aren't too far off from BSS alumna Feist either, particularly on Collision circus waltz "Cake."
Even more than the songs or the sound, though, Aftermath believes the real reason the Moccasins have become so beloved locally (and now, perhaps, beyond the Loop) is the chemistry. Every show we've seen, including Thursday, it's obvious that they're having the time of their lives onstage, and that these five people were put on this planet to make music together - especially with new drummer John Baldwin, who put real meat on the bones of Metronomes songs like "My Favorites Die" and "Spanish and Jazz." Big props also to the band's pendulum, bassist Nick Cody, and one of the most underrated guitar heroes in Houston, Andrew Lee.
The Moccasins, who thanked the crowd for coming at least half a dozen times Thursday, leave for New Orleans in a couple of hours. If they can maintain the same infectious energy they had at Walter's, they might be able to finish out their three-week tour without ever once needing to fill up their van's gas tank.
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