MOIST may appear to be the kind of flash-in-the-pan band Seattle is all too used to: a band that shows up out of nowhere fully formed, plays a couple of incredible shows, releases a demo, and is never heard from again. As their show posters are plastered over on the light poles of Capitol Hill, their names live on in dingy bars whenever someone asks “What happened to those guys? They were sick” over their Rainier tallboy. But make no mistake: MOIST is the kind of flash-in-the-pan that scares the hell out of you, sends you to urgent care, and leaves you with permanent scarring. Made up of two Seattleites and a pair of siblings from Hawaii, MOIST played a few explosive punk sets this year and then suddenly fell silent, its members once again decamping out of state. Luckily, they left behind a collection of re-recorded tracks, entitled Safe Word, to tide us over until they regroup.
If this release’s title is any indication, MOIST are purveyors of the most in-demand strain of punk ethos right now: heavy on the bondage imagery and effortlessly cool, in the way the plain white T-shirts they wear onstage look effortlessly cool. A little stylish, yet more than a little dangerous. Safe Word’s clanging, angular guitars and fuzzed-out vocals are relentlessly modern, but wild and reeking of young adult ennui in a way that recalls punk’s roughhewn roots. Similarly, their music video for two tracks off Safe Word, “Leathered” and “Aswirl,” is half traditional basement live video, half black-and-white art film. Featuring full-body Spandex suits, aggressively awkward dancing, and some creepy thigh stroking, it is all very of-the-moment yet still classic.
There’s some deceptively nuanced musicianship at work on this release. In key moments, the band will introduce tiny musical Easter eggs: a single chiming chord reminiscent of surf rock; a rapid-fire bass solo; a hint of delay on the guitars, snapping back at you like a stretched rubber band. These stylistic flourishes are scattered sparingly throughout Safe Word’s eight tracks, providing an excellent counterpoint to the straightforward punk onslaught that dominates most of its run time. While four-chord bravado and mid-tempo stomp is the bread and butter of Safe Word, MOIST’s spin on the genre is immensely clever. Listen to Safe Word at moisthawaiianrights.bandcamp.com.