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Brave Noise & Burning In Water

Moving Targets

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Album Review

Burning in Water is an overlooked post-punk masterpiece, a holy grail of 1980s Boston rock that is one of the missing links between Mission of Burma and the Neats and later bands like Lemonheads, Bullet Lavolta, and Buffalo Tom. Any mid-'80s underground rock & roll band in Massachusetts would have been affected by its release. While Moving Targets became known beyond the border — particularly in Europe — they possessed a decidedly Boston flavor. An unrelenting, urgent work, this explosive debut LP is chock-full of consistently excellent songwriting and impressive, aggressive musicianship. Burning in Water captures Moving Targets at their early peak — like Boston's eager answer to Hüsker Dü. The stark punk rock packaging gives little indication of the vivid music within. The songs seem to burst out of the box, colored with the edgy but warm guitar-driven production of Lou Giordano. Moving Targets here sound like a trio of guys playing as if this might be their last opportunity to record. And indeed the volatile lineup had reason for concern: They had many shake-ups throughout their all-to-brief span, all the while helmed by singer/guitarist/songwriter Kenny Chambers. And the imperative to get these songs and sounds on tape came at a time when post-punk music was developing at a rapid clip. Two years prior, Hüsker Dü had released the monumental Zen Arcade, which merged early-'80s hardcore punk — itself a raw outgrowth of its more straightforward rock & roll forebear of the late '70s — with an art punk strain that seemed to come from Boston's Mission of Burma and others. Zen Arcade also encompassed a darker variation of the pop-punk of the Buzzcocks, and the artsy folk-rock of R.E.M. With the release of New Day Rising — like Burning in Water, was also released in 1986 — Hüsker Dü was quickly blazing exciting new trails; and when at the top of their game, they seemed to be challenged only by themselves. With Burning in Water, Moving Targets seem to have anticipated New Day Rising — the two LPs were recorded roughly around the same time. Clearly, the Targets — also a classic power-trio — were influenced by the Minneapolis trio, as were most underground post-punk bands. But Moving Targets themselves began in 1981, more directly influenced by the parochial Boston hardcore scene, and also by the highly influential Mission of Burma. Opening with "The Other Side," an anthemic psychedelic-punk salvo not unlike the title song of New Day Rising, Moving Targets state their intent to combine the energy of hardcore with classic rock and even progressive rock. The imposing Pat Brady, who was a firefighter, was one of those strong-man drummers from 1980s alt-rock bands who, like Smashing Pumpkins' Jimmy Chamberlin and Bitch Magnet's Orestes Morphin, were influenced by the more-is-more philosophy of 1970s icons Neil Pert and Keith Moon. On every song — but particularly "Faith" and "Let Me Know When" — Brady fits in an impossible amount of beats, rolls, and fills into tight spaces, remaining musical, swinging, and relatively steady, even while taking pinpoint turns in tempo. And also like the Who, the other Targets — Chambers and bassist-vocalist Pat Leonard — follow the lead, not necessarily competing for the spotlight so much as coaxing, demanding that energy and the ultimate performance from each other. All three perform musically and frenetically at once. This trio was their best lineup, a magic version of the band. Every song here is an anthem, and perhaps that could be listed as a fault for some folks. Even as the tone of the album moves to a darker minor-key tone, approaching drone and dissonance at times, the songs feature martial snare rolls, and pummeling, fat AC/DC-like guitar chords and, above all, melody. The material is well-arranged, with little filler; while some songs feature a multitude of often intricate sections (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro, and so on), none reach the four-minute mark — a discipline gleaned from the lean, fast rules approach of hardcore. There is even a brief respite of acoustic Celtic folk as a Led Zeppelin-type of introduction to "Urban Dub." Chambers' lyrics deal mostly with young-adult angst: shaken interpersonal relationships, miscommunication, and the subsequent emotional fallout. The songwriter does provide much concrete imagery, making the material difficult to appreciate on more than one level. But his punk-inspired vocal approach — long howling-yet-melodic shout-singing — lends a sincere air of importance to the proceedings. The emotional expression seems genuine and conversational — as if we are overhearing a fight between two people, or the internal dialogue and conflict within the narrator: "Don't think about things too much/never underestimate a single opportunity" ("Faith"); "Always calling/Calling out to me/This could be the first/And the last time" ("Always Calling").

Biography

Formed: 1981

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Springing from the fertile grounds of Boston's parochial hardcore punk-rock scene, Moving Targets are a little-known but seminal link in a chain that joins hardcore and other early-'80s Boston music strains...
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Brave Noise & Burning In Water, Moving Targets
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