The Moaners, a two-girl blues-rock outfit from North Carolina, debut with Dark Snack, a down-and-dirty, girls-in-charge record full of swagger and feedback.
Guitarist and singer Melissa Swingle, formerly of Trailer Bride, and drummer Laura King of Grand National, among other bands, come together with a sound that strikes me as the Cramps meeting the White Stripes and getting vocals from a less-practiced, southern PJ Harvey. The album starts off well, with the sexy “Heart Attack,” and is at its best when it maintains that low-fi rock sound and mocking tone. Other standout tracks are “Terrier,” where Swingle laughs at the men who hit on her, comparing them to a terrier humping her leg, the funked-up waltz, “Oh Christy,” and the reworking of “House of the Rising Sun,” which here has new lyrics describing the “Paradise Club.”
The record’s worst feature is the flat and monotonous vocals. Sometimes it works, mostly when deadpan humor is implied, but when real feeling is called for, it’s more grating than anything else. One spin through the record and it’s fine, but more than that and I find myself skipping through several tracks where the lyrics are particularly insipid—“There’s too many people” repeated over and over, or the overuse of the word “stinky”—Flannery O’Connor, who is also name-checked on the record, would not approve. I like what the Moaners are trying to do, but I think there’s room for improvement.