Nine minutes of pure joy.
Moon Hooch play music to mosh and dance to, but with two saxophones and an octopus behind the drum kit. John Zorn and Colin Stetson might send their regards, but the New York trio’s baffling concoction of dubstep-inspired jazz is peerless. Their live show plays in similar transcendent realms, becoming hallucinatory and liable to turn bones into jelly. Moon Hooch work best when rushing like a fever dream, sweating the virus out. So how do they pack all that madness into nine bite-sized minutes?
Small but mighty is Light It Up’s motto. Even when compared to Moon Hooch’s most accessible compositions, these three songs are sheer pop pleasure, with run time and production to match. The album cover does the music no justice; this might be Moon Hooch at their most vibrant. Smooth probably ain’t the right word, as those juicy, low bass notes rumble out like a T. Rex stomping through a cocaine bender, but there’s no doubt that Light It Up flows majestically. In between bouts of soloing skronk, “Acid Mountain” has a loose and languid melody line that soothes the roaring choruses, before it all bursts apart at the seams again. “Growing Up” doesn’t slink; it’s much, much too loud for any sneakiness, but the filthy opening line that propels the song has a delightful smear of nastiness to it, bringing to mind zealous nights filled with various illicit activities. But the bridge is a gorgeous bit of tempo breaking, the lead swimming through arpeggios before the chorus comes thwomping down like an unmoored cinderblock.
In terms of pop duality smashed up with atonal freakouts (and the resulting ferocious beauty), nothing hits like the title track, perhaps the best song the trio have ever made. The opening few seconds are nearly coffeehouse-swing and a tantalizing look at what Moon Hooch could do if they ever calmed down. Spoiler: they will never, ever, ever, ever calm down. Just a few moments later, they launch into a breathless, bouncy verse that stretches the sax like rubber and puts the subwoofers through a workout. The chill-out melody returns briefly only to be pulverized by a horn line that seems more screamed than played and the opening returns, an octave up and triumphant rather than tranquil. It’s a climactic, thrilling moment that, in a just world, will serve as Moon Hooch’s live closer from now until the end of time (and, since we’re dreaming here, it will be stretched out to eight minutes).
There’s an argument to be made that the only thing holding back Light It Up is that it is minuscule. With a band this clearly on their A game, it’s tempting to be greedy and simply ask for a full hour of this batshit fun. But Light It Up knows its time and place. Due to sheer force of catchiness and charisma, it’s instantly, insatiably, repayable. It’s nine minutes of pure joy.