8/5/99: Rochester D&C 8/5/99
Democrat & Chronicle
Rochester, NY
Weekend Section

There's more to Moxy than amusing head games

By Jeff Spevak

Click here for the pic from the article

Canada's wonder Canadian quartet Moxy Fruvous has a new CD out titled Thornhill. The band describes it as being more ''radio-friendly'' than its previous efforts.

We've got Moxy

What: Moxy Fruvous, with Sarah Slean opening. When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10. Where: Milestones, 170 East Ave. Tickets: Sold out.

Information: 325-5880 or 325-6490. Fans shut out of the Milestones show can see the band play a free acoustic set at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Record Archive, 1880 East Ave.

(Aug. 5, 1999) -- For thousands of young Canadians -- and I believe I saw this on a public television documentary -- growing up just outside Toronto means being weaned on Gordon Lightfoot music, cleaning up after sled-dog teams, reading inspirational pamphlets about John Candy, eating school lunches of half-frozen whale meat and drinking Labatt's.

But Mike Myers and the Barenaked Ladies survived the hardships of growing up in the Toronto suburbs with their ability to amuse intact.

''The currency of the Toronto suburbs is humor,'' agrees Murray Foster. He's a singer and bassist with Moxy Fruvous, the Canadian band built on wonderful harmonies, thoughtful songs and a great sense of humor.

In fact, it's the funny, lighthearted songs that have won Moxy Fruvous a loyal following, a decade after the group's beginning as Toronto street performers. Those songs include My Baby Loves a Whole Bunch of Authors, which laments what excessive reading can do to a relationship, and King of Spain, which details a European monarch's fall to the lowly post of pizza worker.

Moxy Fruvous' new album, Thornhill, is being released Tuesday, the same day the group plays a sold-out show at Milestones, a benefit for WBER-FM (90.5).

More than any other Moxy Fruvous album, Thornhill deserves to be called beautiful. The band's Beatles influences are strong, down to the individual Beatles: The plaintive piano and harmonies of Sad Girl ring of Paul McCartney. You Can't Be Too Careful could be George Harrison.

Thornhill is the Toronto neighborhood where the men of Moxy grew up, so you might think that Thornhill is a concept album about coming-of-age in the suburbs.

But on Thornhill, Moxy Fruvous doesn't traipse around its old neighborhood.

''We're conscious that it's the most radio-friendly album of our career,'' says Foster. ''But we're comfortable not going for the laugh as often. We're a little more confident in displaying other emotions. We don't always have to do a double-take into the camera anymore.''

So will the band's old fans buy Thornhill? Or would they rather listen to Pisco Bandito, a song about Mexican fish that travel north to Canada to commit robbery and then send the money home to Mexico? That song didn't make the final cut on Thornhill.

On earlier albums, Moxy might have been tempted to turn a song like My Poor Generation into an amusing romp through pop culture. Instead, the group settles for explaining the sad ache of an overloaded and aimless generation: ''I'm drowning in information, my poor generation.''

That poor generation was presented in its worst light two weekends ago. Moxy Fruvous played the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, then turned on CNN the next morning to see images of Woodstock '99, just an hour away, going up in flames.

''I was glad to see those fires and lootings and end-of-festival high jinks,'' Foster confesses. ''It was a sign of life from this poor generation. It was a sign of kids reclaiming the festival and saying, 'We're not gonna take it anymore.' ''

Sure, Woodstock ended in a riot. About 225,000 kids paid $150 a ticket so that they could use flooded campsites and bathrooms overflowing with human waste after the first day and be charged $4 for a bottle of water.

That's no excuse for starting a riot, but no one should have been surprised that it happened. You don't think the old ladies at a Barry Manilow concert would throw a fit over the same conditions? The heavy pounding of bands like Limp Bizkit -- blamed for inciting the riot just like Judas Priest was once blamed for causing fans to commit suicide -- were only a soundtrack.

''The purpose of music is becoming more ambient, mood-setting,'' says Foster. ''We've always been the anti-mainstream band. Bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers seem retro now. Korn doesn't seem new. Limp Bizkit isn't about songs; it's about purging emotion. Limp Bizkit aims for the gut. It's visceral. We aim for the head.''

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