Buffalo, New York’s moe. has enjoyed enviable success over the past 20 years as a result of its singularly driven vision and creative approach to music. Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals), Al Schnier (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Vinnie Amico (percussion), and Jim Loughlin (drums) have weathered time in a way that few other rock bands can claim.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, perhaps it only makes sense for the quintet to release a greatest hits album to both chronicle the highlights of a successful past and provide a gateway for new fans. With a large catalog of studio and live recordings, moe. had a deep well from which to draw for Smash Hits Volume One, a collection of classic songs which the band recreated in the studio. And it seems to hit the highlights pretty well for this untrained reviewer’s ears. “Spine of the Dog” is an easygoing calypso party tune, starting the album off with a festive beat. “Yodelittle” is as close as moe. gets to a love song on this album with its very quirky, alpine approach, as the title implies.“Saint Augustine” is another uplifting and positive song, somewhere between a Sunday school rhyme and a street smart ballad with a catchy hook. “Mexico” is the obligatory road tripper, complete with effective storytelling and a long jam thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps one of the things that qualified the songs as "greatest hits" is the fact that they are inevitably lodged into the head of the listener, particularly after a second or third spin. Although I was not previously a big enough moe. fan to have memorized their lyrics, I found that after a few passes through the album, I simply could not get them out of my head. And this is a good thing. Equally enjoyable is the guitar work, specifically on the last three songs of the album – “Okayalright,” “Tailspin,” and “Seat of My Pants” – which show off Garvey and Schnier at their best.
Smash Hits Volume One is a great introduction to moe. for those that are not intimately familiar. It’s a good departure point to explore the music they have made in the past 20 years, and a benchmark to compare the music they have yet to make.
Smash Hits Volume One is out now on Fat Boy Records.