It’s upsetting to hear people saying ‘rock n’ roll is dead’ especially when there’s so much good music out there. On the other hand, when I turn on the radio it’s not a bad observation. Most of the mainstream rock bands tend to lean hard into a particular sub-genre. Folk rock, alt-country, dance-rock, shoegaze, I could go and on about all these genre labels. Perhaps in that sense, rock n’ roll is dead? It’s certainly easy to feel that way if you haven’t listened to Move On, the new album from The By Gods.
If genres are based on principle, The By Gods would be in the dictionary under rock n’ roll.
In theory, it doesn’t take much to make a rock record. Guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. But things can get a bit tricky when it comes to ambition. Make things too simple and it can get boring. Go too big and it contradicts what the genre is all about. Where other bands struggle, The By Gods excel. Everything about Move On is streamlined and focus. It’s not an album trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s about getting it up to speed and leaving town.
The title track, “Moving On” is a bit reminiscent of Nirvana with its raspy vocals and discord melody but things don’t hang around the 90s neighborhood for too long with the very next track “Never Know”. This is where the album officially kicks it into gear. The larger than life guitar riff is elevated by a vocal hook Dave Grohl has lost sight of for the better part of a decade.
Move On isn’t a tribute to the 1990s, but rather a representation of why that era remains the golden standard of guitar-based alternative rock.
It’s not all grunge and teen spirit though. There’s plenty of times when the album showcases more than brooding angst. “Something Real” with its Pixies-esque harmonies and power-pop chorus, proves The By Gods are more than capable of delivering variety. “Our World” is borderline romantic. And “Let It Go” is not only a beautiful shoegaze-flavored ballad but it just might be my favorite track on the entire album. These unexpected twists and turns of vulnerability are what makes Move On a cut above most rock albums of 2017.
The great rock artists of my teenage years are getting older and slowly easing into the dreaded Dad Rock category, so hearing a band like The By Gods releasing music like this is a sound for sore ears. All this talk of a by-gone era might lead you to believe The By Gods are archaic but that’s not the case by any means. Move On merely represents what was so special of that era and how its missing in today’s mainstream. The By Gods get it and it’s one of the many reasons Move On is a strong contender for album of the year for me.
Move On is available on vinyl and digital at Bandcamp.
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.