“there’s no one left to ride bikes with / just an empty fireplace / a tenuous six-pack”
It’s been about thirty years since Calvin Johnson’s Beat Happening released their debut, twenty years since his first collaboration with Dough Martsch as The Halo Benders, and over a dozen years since his first album under his own name. And yet on all of those records, both Johnson himself and his bands sound as if they could still run those songs wild; no tune-ups necessary for his distinctive tune-bending pop-ruckus. Now, one of the greatest dudes in the history of the American West regains us in real-time with mini-LP Moanin’, his second longer release as The Hive Dwellers.
Moanin’ describes the album pretty well. Johnson’s voice is in great shape and his band gives him a funky room to throw it around, a room with heavy drapes and stacks of waterlogged magazines but doors opening to the front- and backyard. The Hive Dwellers’ sound continues the sonic lineage of Johnson’s previous bands, leaning toward a lusher blues-folk, like a druggier Fred Neil.
And they do it well. I can’t describe how happy I was when “Love Will Come Back Again” started playing halfway through the album. Originally released on Johnson’s first solo album What Was Me, “Love Will Come Back Again” is one of my favorite songs in his catalogue. The Hive Dwellers’ version is loungy, bright, and a fucking joy. Maybe they knew people would be ecstatic to hear this song returned.
Start moanin’ on CD, LP, cassette, and MP3 from K Records.