Lo-fi legend and power pop genius collaborate on a one-of-a-kind LP that tickles the brain as often as it tickles the funny bone.
Strange bedfellows can make great music together, as evidenced by this collaboration between R. Stevie Moore and Jason Falkner, Make It Be. Moore’s impulse-driven lo-fi aesthetic serves as the perfect counterpart to Falkner’s thoughtful, refined power pop. It’s not so much a second coming of Lennon and McCartney as it is the marriage of Let It Be’s rougher, tougher tendencies and Magical Mystery Tour’s mind-bending melodies all swaddled in unforgettable hooks that dig in deep and fast.
The opening “I H8 Ppl” exemplifies the melding of these concerns. Fuzzy, buzzy guitars rest on a foundation of steady rocking beats that get the feet moving as much as they get the blood rushing. It’s dance music for loners; disco sounds for the self-loathing (or self-loving) set, the perfect way to pass the better part of four minutes. As with the best material from either the lo-fi or power pop worlds, what shines brightest isn’t the aesthetics, it’s the writing. The former doesn’t hurt, however.
“I Love Us, We Love Me” builds and bursts with a brilliance that at times recalls Big Star’s “For You”, though this track is tinged with a wicked sense of humor that serves as a lovely counterpart to the musical beauty of the thing. There’s beauty to be found in the instrumental interludes “Gower (Theme From a Scene)” and “Guitar Interplé”, humor to be found in the panicked, punk-ish “Stamps” and a humor-laden vignettes that summon happy memories of Robert Calvert as his most irreverent and wise (“Strictly Prohibited”, “Falkner Walk”).
In between, there’s the triumphant and Who-ish “Horror Show”, one of those smart, quirky songs that would not have been out of place on the Nuggets compilation or in the hearts of kids who clamored to the front of the stage during the golden era of psychedelia. A cover of the old New Orleans number “Don’t You Just Know It” imagines NRBQ leading a parade down Psilocybin Street in the warmth of the orange sunshine. “If You See Kay/Run For Your Lives!” calls to mind an American version of XTC and/or its secret self the Dukes of Stratosphear.
None of those comparisons is intended to detract from the vision that Moore and Falkner demonstrate here, one that draws from the rich history of rock and pop while moving us all into some territories that others have perhaps considered marching into before thinking the ground too rugged and foreboding. That’s the difference, once supposes, between the merely brilliant and those who are brilliant and brave. Moore and Falkner, of course, land firmly in the latter category.
Witness the shift from the aforementioned “If You See Kay/Run For Your Lives” into the gorgeous, meditative “Guitar Interplay Dos” then into a dark, dreamlike place conjured into being by Giorgio Moroder during a bout of the strange (“That’s Fine, What Time?”). These twists and turns may not make sense to those listening from the outside but are a warm embrace to the outsider, one keen on blurring the lines between what can be executed and what can be imagined.
That’s the line that Make It Be proudly walks. It is not, however, an off-putting experience but instead one that opens its umbrella wide for all who wish to come inside and enjoy the long, strange and thoroughly beautiful trip this record is. That something this smart and beautiful could come from a seemingly unlikely pairing is further evidence that maybe these collaborations should happen more often, that turns of the unexpected can heighten our musical consciousness and enrich our musical experiences.
Put more simply: Make It Be is a fine, fine record that deserves to be heard now and well into the distant future.