At it’s best, dance music has championed the misfits, and been a home for the one-of-a-kinds. When this happens, a club can become a safe haven and temple for anyone willing to embrace others as they embrace themselves. But what happens when it isn’t the outside world that can’t contain an idea, but the club itself? The answer, it seems, is Bob Moses. Originally honed in New York’s effervescent music world, the now LA-based duo were warehouse warriors with a destiny that sets them apart from every indie rock act and dance DJ in rotation. The brainchild of an Ultra Records trance savant and a rock band bassist, Bob Moses has aspirations beyond every pre-made path; the weepy indie scene needs more kick drum, and the fist pumping dance hoards need to be subject to more songwriting with soul. It’s from this thrilling, precarious position that the duo deliver their second full-length studio effort, Battle Lines.
The album begins with a bang, as the towering vocal harmonies of “Heaven Only Knows” leads to a thundering four-to-the-floor romp. Despite grungy guitar work woven throughout the track, the song has an undeniable royalty to it that belies the track’s tellingly conflicted lyrics. As the LP flows forward, it’s clear the group is presenting their unique tastes, and nothing else. It’s a lucky thing; the compositions range from the shimmering cool of album’s title track to the rattling thrum of “The Only Thing We Know.” It doesn’t take long to realize this latest incarnation of Bob Moses has shed another layer of dance floor disco. In its place is an extra pour of smoke and fuzz that brings the duo deeper into indie rock territory than ever before — at least in terms of texture and instrumentation.
Beneath the surface is a group feeling freed to try on every song structure and arrangement inspiration that grasps their interest. The record’s final complexion reveals a lot about what the studio sessions were probably like. Guitar lines and echoing piano power Oasis-esque sensibilities on “Selling Me Sympathy,” while “Nothing But You” drenches Maroon 5 pop stylings in saturation and warmth. Dig deeper, and there are those uniquely effortless dance roots that put the group’s scene-straddling abilities in the spotlight. “Listen to Me” and “Enough to Believe” are atmospheric deep house in indie rock clothing, and “Heaven Only Knows” possesses a gritty stomp that would sound right at home on a more recent Justice record. In less capable hands, the collection of ideas would border on chaos. Ever the masters at toeing the genre line, Bob Moses cover the entire project in two bulletproof ingredients – sonic cohesion, and a supreme confidence and command of musical elements that come from the natural maturation of an artistic journey. The various inspirations push and pull the listener back and forth, but the space Bob Moses’s music lives in remains the same. The feat is duplicated in rich, bittersweet, and conflicted lyrics. They speak of loss, doubt, remorse and ultimately resolution — consider, “Back Down” begins with the phrase “Caught in the tide of our own divide.” If Battle Lines represents a group with a foot in multiple worlds, Bob Moses should hopefully aim to ride that tide right into whatever fascinating canvas of expression they draw up next.