Joseph Patrick Moore's Drum & Bass Society
"Volume 1"

(Blue Canoe Records 2004)Joseph Patrick Moore\'s Drum & Bass Society - Volume 1

Before any of you electronic music geeks get too excited by the name of Joseph Patrick Moore's Drum & Bass Society, know that for the most part the bass they're referring to is the kind with four or five strings and the drums here are the sort you hit with sticks. Yes, there are a few sped-up breakbeats thrown in to stave off claims of false advertising, but nothing that's going to pop up in a Dieselboy or DJ Dara mix anytime soon. That disclaimer aside, Joseph and his society offer a pleasing mix of originals and covers (perhaps we should say "standards") on their debut "Volume 1," all done in a smooth, coffeehouse-jazz style. As mocha-sipping music goes, it's all right: the dreamy, Phish-inspired guitar jamming tickles your eardrums while stopping well short of blowing your mind; and the tight, but light, rhythm grooves keep you nodding without threatening to make you move your booty (and thus risk spilling your latté).

You might think I'm dissing Joseph Patrick Moore with such comments, but you'd be wrong. There's a point you reach after maybe a decade and a half of listening to punk rock when you want to plug your ears and shout, "For crying out loud, why can't music sound nice for a change?" And "Volume 1" does indeed sound nice. The guitars, played by Johnny Mosier, Howard Parks, and Brent Cundall, are clean and clear and pitch-perfect, Joseph's bass is warm and mellow, and most of the guest vocalists have very appealing voices. On most of the tracks, the musicians apply their considerable technical skill to solid, familiar pop gems with comfortable results: their cover of Men at Work's "Down Under" has a swirling flute and laid-back, Caribbean feel that suits the song rather well. Ditto for JPM's interpretation of Phish's "Heavy Things" which sets its bubbly flute and nimble guitar soloing to -- of all things -- some low-wattage drum n' bass loops. Originals such as "Cheesefrog Funk" skirt more experimental territory, dabbling in gipsy violins, tribal beats, cryptic spoken-word samples, and even dissonance, but never to the point where it would become truly weird or disturbing.

Not to say the Drum and Bass Society always hits its middle-of-the-road mark. The group's take on The Knack's "One Thing Leads to Another" leads nowhere, the instrumental verses sound like out-of-order elevator music while the vocal hook on the choruses seems needlessly tacked-on. And their attempt to funkdafy the bridge of "Ghost Town" with party-shouts of "Oh, yeah!" and "Woo!" backfires laughably.

But I can't complain too much. Like I said, this music manages to sound nice without being milquetoast, and provides agreeable background music for such activities as drinking rammalammachinos, reading Harper's magazine, and typing up record reviews. There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything, even easy-listening jazz, and Joseph Patrick Moore's Drum & Bass Society does it right far more often than not.

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