“Gag Reflections” – Wild Moccasins
With its glistening union of purposeful guitar rock and a mellifluous soprano, “Gag Reflections” gives off a welcome aroma of ’90s alternative rock (Belly, anybody? Tanya Donelly?), and okay, here’s something that the Retromania crowd refuses to understand: how brilliant it is that today’s bands have such wide-ranging, decades-spanning musical language by which to be inspired. Sure, it was cool when rock’n’roll was younger and new forms were emerging, but it is also cool now with nearly 60 years of rock’n’roll behind us for bands to comb through it all and decide what works as a platform for their own musical expression. For laughs, browse the blogosphere and note how often writers disparage a band for “not breaking any ground.” By which they mean that a given piece of music doesn’t seem to sound “new.” And yet to judge “newness” based entirely on whether it’s a new form is not only short-sighted (there’s way more to music than form, and always has been) but entirely misses the point of rock’n’roll in 2012. End of rant.
Both solidly built and subtly quirky, “Gag Reflections” begins with an odd but incisive prelude—first we hear a double-time riff, with an air of Morse-code urgency about it, then Zahira Gutierrez enters singing only the song’s title, the riff continuing, building tension, and releasing, now, into a proper intro. And quite an intro it is, with a satisfying, all but anthemic guitar line (0:22), the kind of guitar line, indeed, that rock’n’roll songs were made to be built around. And yet here, this superb guitar line feels a bit hidden—less central than slightly left-of-central, and soon overshadowed by Gutierrez’s fetching, elastic voice, which is simultaneously inviting and mysterious. She is one of those singers who can appear to sing clearly while still concealing most of the words she’s saying. And so you lean closer in. The payoff arrives at the end of the chorus, when she abandons words entirely for that angelic “oo-oo-oo” we first hear at 1:12. I love that the song’s most powerful hook is a fleeting moment, almost an afterthought, after the lyrics have ended. I also love the even higher “oo-oo-oo” Gutierrez unleashes later on (2:44), and, then, the brief but compelling guitar noise the band puts out shortly thereafter.
Wild Moccasins are a Houston-based quintet founded in 2007. Their debut album, Skin Collision Past, was self-released in 2010, and then re-released nationally in 2011 on New West Records. “Gag Reflections” is a single released in mid-July on New West.