One could be forgiven for swearing off Moonshake once hearing of Margaret Fiedler and John Frennet's defection to Laika. After all, it was Fiedler's fraught lyrics tempered with soothing vocals and Frennet's dub-wise bass that provided some well-needed respite from Dave Callahan's sneering antics on Eva Luna. Callahan's voice, an acquired taste, would be tough to swallow for a whole record. So quite wisely, he wrangles a supporting cast that helps make this a strikingly solid, bold, multi-dimensional follow-up to an acclaimed record. With drummer Mig still on board, Callahan enlists the help of Collapsed Lung bassist Johnny Dawe, who's just as skilled in Jah Wobble-style dub gymnastics as his predecessor. Polly Harvey and Stereolab's Katharine Gifford provide vocals throughout, not so much in the manner of a foil like Fiedler, but more in a background sense. The sound is built on the same rhythmic template as Eva Luna, that being Public Image Ltd.'s Metal Box. As the line on the back cover announces, the record is guitar-free, which shakes away some of the prior cacophony in favor of spaciousness and more jazzbo elements. Occasional trumpet on half of the record arrives courtesy of Andrew Blick, while Raymond Dickaty adds woodwinds and brass, effectively taking the place of the guitar as focal point. Opener "Joker John" is warp-speed dub with rolling percussion and creaky swingset samples. The title track is as atonal as a brass-based instrumental can get, but the Gene Krupa molestation and handclaps make it nice and snappy, if in a spastic fashion. Closer "Into Deep Neutral" is the closest Moonshake gets to pop. Callahan is at his most melodic; Gifford and Harvey double and triple him on the chorus, catapulted by breezy horn vamps.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman