Moke takes the mainstream and puts it through a prism. The slick sound of "now" is apparent, but it's shot through with an indie edge and a classic rock vibe. The paradoxical music is both condensed and sprawling, stomping and delicate. The band sounds proud and self-confident, with plenty of young-buck swagger, yet at the same time it's beautifully flawed in its humanity.

Moke vocalist John Hogg strikes a similar balance in his lyrics. A somewhat jaundiced worldview is balanced by the sense that on a day-to-day basis it's all going to work out anyway. Hogg is articulate to a degree seldom found in current straight-ahead rock music (which, after all, is what Moke is) but never becomes too clever for his own good. From the bravado of "My Degeneration" to the contemplative acoustics of "Slide" -- "Warriors are wagers / Sinners are our saviors / Excuse me while I slip into something more insulting / These are the pleas of the pale in power" -- the attentive listener is almost always stimulated, but never annoyed.

In support of its debut CD, the London-based quartet traveled the United States with both the Black Crowes and the Goo Goo Dolls. In fact, four years of arduous touring took the band to all five continents and honed Moke's already energetic live performances. It also provided Hogg with the lyrical fodder to create what he calls "an expression of spirituality, without all the details."

Now touring in support of its sophmore effort, Carnival, Moke is in tow behind King's X. It's as easy to imagine Moke at home on a bill with the native Houstonians as it is to imagine the group with the Goo Goo Dolls. The underpinnings of rock are every bit as evident in this outfit as its pop sensibilities.

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Chris Smith