In talking about their second record for Sub Pop, LA-based trio Moaning have made much of the fact that they’ve swapped guitars for synths. They describe the satisfaction of working with a greatly expanded, sonic palette and claim to have “cranked up the beats.” They seem sincere enough, but the end result is neither new beginning or fresh idea.
Instead, Uneasy Laughter sounds almost exactly like you’d expect. The basic blueprint of the band’s debut is unchanged—they still play washed-out-but-wired post punk and mid-tempo dream rock. And they still play it in the same way—accomplished but not exactly adventurous.
Plugging in a keyboard has not changed that. In fact, the addition of synths, something circa 7000 other indie bands have done in the last few years, edges Moaning even more into the rank-and-file.
Synthy sparks fly off of “Ego,” but it’s mostly powered by the motorik bounce of Bloc Party, engaging but familiar. “Fall in Love” features perhaps the most cranked beat but is still too awkward to dance to, and “Connect the Dots” shimmers with light but lands closer to nice than outstanding.
It might not be good for the band’s mental health, but Uneasy Laughter is at its best when Moaning’s darkness shines through. “Make It Stop” sounds like Erasure by way of Black Sabbath; “Coincidence or Fate” is anxious and fidgety, made for times like these, and frontman Sean Solomon is still capable of striking a chord, crooning things like, “I want to be anybody but myself” with low candor.
There’s hardly a note out of place here, but nothing you won’t see coming either. No alarms, no surprises.