New Jersey basement dweller and certified lo-fi recording pioneer R. Stevie Moore opens Personal Appeal, his 42nd (!!!) compilation album, with the tongue-in-cheek pop song "Why Can't I Write a Hit?" The half-serious slab of bedroom pop answers its own question with its manic structure, jagged recording, and Moore's flailing falsetto vocals, all pointing toward incredible and challenging outsider music but not even coming close to the disposable production and candy-coated appeal that land tunes in the Billboard charts. Moore culls the tracks for Personal Appeal from a mail-order-only cassette series spanning 1973-2001. Even a few songs into the set, it's easy to hear the silent influence Moore's oddball four-track experiments had on underground music, with the nervously shifting song structures and wobbly funk undercurrent of "No Body" predicting phases of Ariel Pink or Of Montreal's sound and the slowed-down vocals and phased-out direct guitar noodling of "Old" landing somewhere between Ween and the jammier tones of certain Thrill Jockey artists. Drawing from such a wide time span, the material here brazenly hops genres and styles from song to song. While a track like the strangely tender "I've Begun to Fall in Love" marries Beach Boys sentimentality to rudimentary synth pop, at any given moment we can find Moore dipping into faux-country theatrics ("Quarter Peep Show"), creepy Beatlesque balladry ("The Picture"), or even skronky saxophone-led beachy pop ("Treat Me"). It factors in somewhat that Moore would include a "listenability ranking" from one to ten on all of the hundreds of songs from his cassette club series, as even this "best-of"-styled compilation has enough jarring and ugly moments to ensure every listener will skip over at least one tune or another. Along with loner weirdos like Jad Fair and Gary Wilson, R. Stevie Moore has filtered the intensity and wildness of his personality into his songs in a way that will most likely never result in a Top Ten hit, but will accomplish the greater purpose of inspiring other generations of musicians and obsessed fans. Personal Appeal, as inconsistent and slapdash as it is, probably serves as the most accurate overview of Moore's overwhelming back catalog of obscured freak-outs and cracked pop gems.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas