Live in California - Radio Moscow (Alive Naturalsound)
If live albums are often dismissed as the preserve of bands fresh out of ideas and with nothing else to release to hoover more money from their witless and obliging fans, it’s time to re-assess that call. In fact, Radio Moscow’s barn-busting, sprawling opus screams out for a re-think.
Packaged as a double LP or single CD, the all-too-obviously titled “Live in California” was recorded over two nights in 2015 at The Satellite theatre in Los Angeles. It’s the sixth album and first non-studio release by this Iowa psych-power trio who have toured with the likes of Nebula, Pentagram and Joe Bonamassa since 2007.
Nothing succeeds like excess and “Live” has plenty of that over its 78 minutes. Brain-melting solos by guitarist-vocalist Parker Griggs litter each of its 14 songs to the point where most of them seem to effortlessly ooze into each other - literally so on “250 Miles/Brain Cycles” - and there’s not one overdub on the whole thing.
This is the music of ballrooms and big, old theatres in the early 1970s in America - before rock and roll headed to the stadia and gave punk and excuse. Yes, you can say Radio Moscow owe a debt to dozens of ‘70s bands. You can take your own pick. For mine, they’re like a meeting between “Maggot Brain”-era Funkadelic with (the funk turned down) and Jimi (chunks of “Axis: Bold As Love” and “Band of Gypsies”) with Jack Bruce writing running front-out-house.
Bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone (both recent recruits) are more than just obliging sidemen, laying down big, fat rhythmic beds for Griggs to run rampant over. There’s not many hooks or melodies to grab hold of. Listening on CD where you don’t have to get up to change sides, it’s easy to lose track of where you are - which is probably the desired effect.
I know what you’re thinking. Punks fought and died to stop this sort of thing. “Live in California” could have been a rambling mess, except for the raw energy at the heart of the whole recording. Drum fills and fiddly bass parts might pepper your ears like a wave of carpet bombs but Griggs’ inventive and often anarchic play should win you over.
Best to clear the room of small children or animals before cranking this up. Excessive volume is a compulsory companion. And a bottle of cheap Scotch whiskey.