Whatzup
The Price of Love
Mars or the Moon

by D.M. Jones
The Price of Love

Mars or the Moon

The Price of Love

“Look up, here comes a ray of sunshine,” goes the opening line of “Ray,” the first song on this impressive release by Indianapolis-based Mars or the Moon. Guitars chime and sheen and bask in tremolo, drums crack crisply and lead singer Lani Williams’ honey-spun vocals shine through the mix. Augmented by some top-tier studio musicians, the combo of Williams (who also plays guitar), multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Joe Hart and Lenen Nicola (percussion and “shaky toys”) bring a watertight yet buoyant feel to all the tracks. “Peace” manages to carry a driving momentum while maintaining a delicate sense of introspection, and the nuanced use of layered acoustic and electric guitars – plus a well-placed rhythm section – keeps the song floating along nicely despite its Bonnie Raitt-meets-Freddie Mercury wrap-up. These guys also used their fortuitous proximity to John Mellencamp to procure his bassist and drummer for this album? Nice help if you can get it.

Even piling on a layer of fuzz guitar and (nearly) punk-inflected vocals from Hart on “Little Stew” can’t derail the sugariness inherent in Mars or the Moon’s sound, nor can the driving rock anthemics on “Shanti Shakti,” which is sure to bring the folks to their feet during live sets. Hearkening back to some of the more rocking Lilith Fair moments, “The Price of Love” percolates with pummeling drums, heavy strumming and passionate vocals from Williams, but the real strength of this band seems to show itself when they pull back a bit. The biggest payoffs on this great-sounding album come amidst moodier numbers such as the Freedy Johnston-tinged “Disgrace,” which provides a songwriting clinic on how to make a great chorus. The theremin-touched, push-pull blues/folk of “Honeywine” features impassioned yet resigned vocals from Hart. Folk-tinged, consistent and professionally done from the first note to the artwork, The Price of Love is definitely worth, um, its price. Find more info at marsorthemoon.com or myspace.com/marsorthemoon. (D.M. Jones)

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