wood overview

wood overview

by Mike Hyttinen for Caught in the Web Inc.

"We are all singers and songwriters. Our music is acoustic with sparse instrumentation and strong harmonies, and our lyrics are poignant, political, funny and adventurous. We're different from anything you've ever seen. As Hal the computer said in 2010, get ready for "something wonderful"."

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary says wood is a "hard, fibrous substance found in trunks and branches of trees or shrubs."

Which is functional enough, we suppose.

But this rather dry description hardly captures the organic, nurturing qualities of the substance. For centuries the human race has used wood to provide warmth, shelter, communication and entertainment.

Now Wood is the title of the second album from Toronto quartet Moxy Früvous - and never was a handle more apt.

For Wood (the album) is an earthy, rootsy musical recording that manages to impart the cozy sense of solid comfort conjured by mention of the substance.

It also represents a major progression for Michael Ford (who sings and plays acoustic guitar and harmonica on the album), Murray Foster (vocals; bass; acoustic and electric guitar), Jean Ghomeshi (vocals; drums and percussion; acoustic guitar; piano) and David Matheson (vocals; banjo; accordion; piano; acoustic guitar).

This musically adept, lyrically astute foursome first burst on the major label recording scene with 1993's Bargainville, a sprawling, complex and joyful album that captured the band's disparate influences all in one - its rousing performance style, its ability to write poignant pop and love songs and its keen sense of satiric commentary.

Successful as it was (Bargainville attained platinum status in Canada and launched a touring schedule that covered most of the past two years), that first album was also something of a watershed.

As a collection of songs, Bargainville marked the culmination of the group's development to that point - a summary of all the band was and all it took to get signed.

Which, in a way, makes wood the first real step of the band's musical career. And it's an interesting step - 11 articulate, highly personal songs that lope along at an easy gait, highlighted by eminently hummable melodies, singalong choruses, seasoned playing and soaring group harmonies.

At first listen, wood is an immediately more cohesive album than Bargainville. There's a unity of musical purpose and of sound that shines through the colorful and soulful mix of stirring vocals and acoustic, folky instrumentation.

Noticeable in their absence, though, are the biting and playful satires which dotted the landscape of Bargainville. Which isn't to say the band has abandoned this side of its nature.

Wood is simply a representation of the group's musical growth from its seedling days as a band of attention-getting Toronto street performers to its current blossoming as a quartet of acoustic pop songsmiths.

"wood represents the more serious, enduring side of the group," says Murray Foster.

David Matheson agrees: "This is a very honest record in terms of what we're up to now. Our tastes have all developed and deepened, and what we like now is exactly what we're up to."

Foster also points out that the group is already working on a set of satirical tunes to be dubbed The B Album.

Band Bio

"Just the facts," they said to me when they asked me to write this Moxy Früvous bio, "just the facts". Well, here are the facts about the improbable rise to fame of this improbable quasi-a cappella quartet out of Toronto with the all-too-likely-name of Moxy Früvous.

We met, the four of us, on a school trip to a pig-calling contest in Flesherton, Ontario. Although none of us won, we split the "Most Promising Pig-Caller" award and met for the first time on the podium. Incidentally, the two pigs used in the contest were "Moxy" and "Früvous".

Back at high school we became friends and, after discovering a common musical and theatrical interest, began collaborating. Two of us wrote three full length musicals for a nearby school of the arts, two formed a pop-funk combo called "Tall New Buildings", and all of us acted in high school and community theatre (one of us even became a regular on a couple of ill-fated CBC series). During all of this we managed to maintain a thrilling team Coleco table-hockey league.

In 1990, while in university, we decided to come together as a foursome and busk for money on the streets of Toronto-a strictly recreational project. Moxy Früvous was the obvious choice for a name, and we decided to busk a cappella so that we wouldn't have to carry instruments.

"In short, we were a four-man tornado that descended onto Bloor Street every Friday, then vanished with pocketfuls of loot to plot the next week's mischief"

We quickly learned that a strong reaction from the crowd meant more loonies in our hat, and so, driven by hunger, we drew upon our musical and theatrical backgrounds, as well as shameless instinct for pandering, to develop a set of music that included rap, folk, soca, impromptu theatrics, comedy, political satire, bad choreography, the occasional dirge and a lot of shouting. Through all of this ran the common threads of strong four-part vocal arrangements, sparse acoustic instrumentation and irreverent and incisive lyrics. In short, we were a four-man tornado that descended onto Bloor Street every Friday, then vanished with pocketfuls of loot to plot the next week's mischief.

It didn't take long to catch the attention of someone important-attention grabbing was, after all, our business-and in the fall of 1990 a CBC radio exec spotted us on the street and hauled us in to perform on the local drive-home show "Later The Same Day". During this performance the CBC brass noticed our penchant for political satire and commissioned us to write what eventually added up to twenty-five satirical songs, on topics ranging from gambling in Ontario to the L.A. riot and for such shows as "Sunday Morning," Gzowski's "Morningside" and CBC-TV's "The Journal". Many of these songs made their way into our live set and subsequently, our album.

In the summer of 1991, we decided to become a real band and move indoors and soon we were playing to our own large and obedient crowds around Toronto.

Early in 1992 we recorded and released our eponymous and independent six-song cassette, which subsequently caused a commotion in the Canadian Music Industry to a degree unheard of since the Martian Conflux of 4,000,000 B.C. It quickly rose to #1 position on the Canadian independent charts and stayed there for a year. By the summer of 1992 it had entered the national charts, and we were opening for the likes of Bryan Adams and Bob Dylan. In the fall the band won a CASBY award for Best New Central Canadian Group and embarked on a cross-Canada tour. By the time the dust had settled (which it hasn't), the cassette had gone gold in Canada (with half of those 50,000 units being sold 'from the stage') and the band had signed a five album deal with Warner Music Canada which included release commitments in the U.S. and the U.K..

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