It’s nice to encounter a local band release with cuts that bear repeated
listening like a classic major-label record, but it doesn’t happen too
often. Chicago quartet Mos Isley pulls off that feat with this debut
The group features a strong keyboardist (Jason Slade), also a fairly rare
find lately. They also have a strong guitarist (Ricky Canning), who doesn’t
dominate the proceedings excessively. Bassist Brian Kallies and drummer Tom
Miller acquit themselves well, too. Many elements of the songwriting
resemble Phish – for instance, the drum part on Shortline is
reminiscent of The Wedge, and Newbury starts with a Ya
Mar-type calypso groove and ends up somewhere between Run Like An
Antelope and Demand. However, the derivative bits are minor
enough not to spoil the fun.
Like Phish, Mos Isley usually works a twist or two even into the more
straightforward funk outings (Centipede, Goggles Pisano) to
keep things from getting overly generic. They also have an eccentric side,
demonstrated by the opener Wash Away and the slow jam (reminds me of
Uriah Heep, if that means much to anybody) that interrupts My Dear.
The vocal quality is variable, none of the lyrics pique my interest (except
one: are they actually singing "She was born a nihilist" in the chorus of
Jezebel?), and the disc is a bit scattered stylistically: Skeptic
Toss, a pomp-rocker with lyrics mentioning something about Jesus and
crucifixions, could have been axed (despite some nice playing).
Overall, though, this debut release displays a band with an unusual
intelligence as writers and players. Predictions about the Mos Isley’s
chances of broader success are a futile endeavor in today’s environment, but
here’s hoping they continue to grow.