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Album Review

It isn't hard to understand why some A&R people go for the quick fix and sign the most generic artists they can get their hands on. When an A&R person starts thinking about overhead, profit-minded shareholders, mortgage payments, and car repairs, it's certainly easy to look at commercial success stories — Creed, Christina Aguilera, DMX, Weezer, or whoever — sign faceless clones of those artists, and market them as aggressively as possible. But A&R and marketing people don't always play it safe; Immergent Records certainly wasn't playing it safe when they signed the adventurous and risk-taking (yet very accessible) Moonraker. This 2003 release would have terrified a lot of labels because the band's music is so difficult to categorize; the album is relevant to alternative pop/rock, but it's also relevant to urban contemporary, funk, and club/dance music. Some of the tracks would work for Björk or Radiohead; others would work for India.Arie or Erykah Badu. And even though electronica is a major influence, Moonraker opts to play trip-hop, chill-out, and downtempo with real instruments instead of being totally programmed (which is why they call themselves "livetronica" instead of electronica). But if Moonraker's experimentation sounds like a marketing person's nightmare — at least in the United States, where commercial radio formats can be extremely rigid — it is pure joy from a creative and artistic standpoint. Kelli Scarr's R&B-minded vocals are consistently expressive, and the band's intriguing, unlikely variety of influences is a definite asset. But this disc is more than just a noble experiment; all of the pieces fall into place perfectly, making the album sound natural and organic instead of forced or pretentious. There will no doubt be some comparisons to Portishead, who are a strong influence and could also be called "livetronica"; nonetheless, Moonraker projects an attractive identity of its own throughout this superb CD.


Formed: 1998 in Boston, MA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Ever since the band's formation in the late 1990s, Moonraker has been extremely difficult to categorize. Alternative pop/rock is part of what they do, but the East Coast residents' dreamy, hypnotic, jazzy work has just as much to do with urban contemporary, funk, disco, and club/dance music. Portishead, Radiohead, Björk, U2, David Bowie, and Steely Dan have all been cited as influences, but Moonraker's sound also brings to mind the soulful grooves of Erykah Badu, India.Arie, N'Dea Davenport, and...
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Moonraker, Moonraker
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