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Album Review

No one ever accused the Holy Modal Rounders of being the most disciplined folk ensemble in the history of the world but, by 1976, Peter Stampfel's leadership had become loose enough that the group had in essence spread out into three interrelated acts — Stampfel's Unholy Modal Rounders (so named in deference to the absence of Steve Weber), Jeffrey Frederick & the Clamtones, and Michael Hurley. Of course, given the laissez faire attitude of the nine players on board, no one bothers to identify which "band" is playing on any given track of Have Moicy!, credited to the three aforementioned ensembles, and no one sounds as if they're likely to be worried about such things — Have Moicy! has the loose, amiable feel of a folky guitar pull, though a closer listen betrays the fact these performances are actually pretty tight (had these people been...practicing?), and the three lead singers each display a distinct if symbiotic personality — genial folky eccentric Stampfel, barroom philosopher Hurley, and nice-guy-with-shady-habits Frederick. All parties involved are also writing at the top of their game, and come up with witty and curiously profound songs about the most mundane subjects; a meditation on the wonders of food includes a few thoughts on the digestive system ("Slurf Song"), listeners learn how much fun armed robbery can be ("Robbin' Banks"), romance blooms in both Europe and rural America ("Midnight in Paris," "Griselda"), and the puzzling disappearance of fast food leads to meditations of mortality ("What Made My Hamburger Disappear"). Charming, tuneful, and a good bit weightier than its playful surfaces might suggest, Have Moicy! is as close to a masterpiece as a group of people this genially laid-back would ever be capable of creating.

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