If you’re only a casual whatzup peruser, you know Kevin Hambrick is no stranger to these here pages, and for good reason. He lands on these pages because he possesses that rare combination of talent, inexhaustible tenacity and sheer prodigious output of quality live and recorded music. So, while passing the interminable few months waiting for a new solo or band release from the man, we’re rewarded with ... a total knockout from the vault! Yes, before there was an Orange Opera or even a Blueberry Hurricane a brave combo by the name of Big Red & Rojo roamed the earth (yes, a full list of Hambrick projects reads like a color-coded terror alert poster). Recorded in glorious analog with then-bandmates Kyle Stevenson (drums) and Josh Mink (bass), Love the Moose contains the embryonic elements that would evolve and continue to serve Hambrick well to this day, as he (thankfully) attracts great bands from abroad to our humble city like a pied piper.I’ll dispense with running down the whole album; it’s uniformly excellent and crackling with pop-smart tunes cloaked in blissed-out distorted guitars and a bushels of vocal harmonies. “The Accident” stomps in with authority (courtesy of Stevenson’s big-sounding drums) and a heavy psychedelic, backwards-guitar-driven vibe. Hambrick’s trademark vocal vibrato and sense of melody manage to stand out amidst the sonic barrage. The chunky power chording and occasional classic groove-rock of “Goodbye Sunshine” is prototypical of Hambrick’s later solo output, with a little more of the bark left on, while Mink’s slinky bassline complements the tune perfectly. For a change of pace, “Shot of Gold” is underpinned by a stomping bar-band beat. “I hate to see you go / over and over again,” pleads Hambrick throughout this propulsive, pop-tinged gem.
You may be thinking at this point that Love the Moose is simply primordial Orange Opera, but the arrangements are slightly more conventional, the guitars way more prominent and the sense of rocking urgency is cranked up. “Better You Than Me” opens up with a galloping guitar/drum riff reminiscent of early-era Smashing Pumpkins before melting into an alternately jaunty and rocking trip. “Home” meanwhile manages to evoke both Black Crowes semi-funky blooze/classic rawk and stately Son Volt riffage. In a perfect world – circa 2001, mind you – the waltzing closer “Don’t Think Twice” would’ve been mandatory last-dance homecoming music; this bittersweet number contains the perfect balance of longing, majesty and cathartic chorus action. It wraps up a very good release that definitely deserves to see the light of day. Thanks for pulling this one down from the shelf and letting me review it, boys.