BY FRED MILLS
Take a dose of Blondie’s NYC glammy New Wave, filter it through some L.A. powerpop and then transplant to Britain circa the early ‘80s when the New Romantics were in full, flowing, funky effect: that’s Houston’s Wild Moccasins, not necessarily in a nutshell but quite empathetically so. Co-fronted by silky-throated chanteuse/keyboardist Zahira Gutierrez, who never met a mascara tube she didn’t like (one of her best performances on the album is for the tellingly-titled track “Eye Makeup, in fact) and guitarist Cody Swann, the band includes three other smartly groomed chaps to help cement the aforementioned Blondie—if Debbie Harry had dyed her locks jet-black instead of platinum—impression. And it’s an eminently likeable impression at that, one bolstered by the plethora of musical hooks and infectious, bouncy energy the group puts forth.
From “Eye Makeup,” a steamysexycool dip into the nightlife and the occasional psychic hangover it provokes (here, Gutierrez alternates between a squeak and a coo, perfectly capturing the mental disconnect) and the West Coast pop vibe of “Soft Focus,” awash in soaring synths; to the angular, arpeggiated guitars of the darkly anthemic title track (trainspotter alert!: it’s a cross between Echo & the Bunnymen and U2) and the straight-up disco rock of “Emergency Broadcast”; Wild Moccasins revel in mashing up several decades’ worth of iconic styles yet still come across as wildly now.
It’s bright pop with a dark edge—case in point, the album title is not a temporal reference, but rather the door code Swann had to punch in when visiting his institutionalized mother—adorned with delightfully debauched sonic accoutrements that will keep you sweet ass moving while the cranial gears engage.
Incidentally, if the idea of the typically twang-centric New West label putting out a record so doggedly un-twangy as 88 92 makes you raise an eyebrow, open your eyes and look around at other labels such as Fat Possum, which long ago strayed from its blues ‘n’ boogie roots to embrace all styles and genre. It’s a bit ol’ musical tent here, and we just play under it, ya know?
DOWNLOAD: “Eye Makeup,” “Soft Focus,” “Eighty-Eight Ninety-Two”