Retoff, McKenzie, Butler and Pierce

In the Moment

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In 1994, Retoff, McKenzie, Butler & Pierce decided to call it quits. Bill Retoff went on to record a solid pair of solo albums, while the other three-fourths of "the Law Firm" released a stellar record under the nom de pop Billy Blastoff. After the better part of a decade, however, the quartet reconvened in its studio, the Psychedelic Farmhouse, to begin work on the wholly D.I.Y. In the Moment. It was certainly worth the down time. The band sounds revivified and ecstatic to be playing music together again. That energy and exuberance transfers intact to the listening experience. The result is RMBP's finest proper full-length effort, by turns playful and adventurous, amiably uncomplicated yet willing to explore new sonic ground. To state the case more directly, it is not merely a reunion for the quartet; many of these songs are among its finest creations. The album expectedly alternates between perfect, bare-boned garage thump ("'Bout My New Love") and pure pop/rock ("The Real Side of Love," Beach Boys Party! for breezy gazebo evenings), the band's hallmarks. In "Love I Can't Control," the two wade in the same pool together, resulting in a bubblegum-garage gem that, with any airplay, could be the new era's "Little Bit O' Soul" or "Yummy Yummy Yummy." But adding to the album's charms are several captivating, stylistic turns. A harmonica solo coupled with the country lope of the rhythm section gives "I'm So Sure" an almost zydeco feel, while "Fave Rave" is lovely folk-rock on its face, before morphing into a little time capsule of four decades of pop music, its melodramatic Brill Building narrative subversively undercut by disorienting psychedelic echo midway through the song. Then there is the plain freakishness of "The Chant for Psychedelic Girls," a backwards tape experiment that may or may not be prepubescent girls speaking in tongues. Who knew this kind of stuff went on in rural Illinois?