Talk about "before the beginning"; The Moving Parts was the immediate predecessor and common ancestor to seminal Boston groups Mission of Burma and Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. The group boasted the talents of Erik Lindgren -- later of Birdsongs, not to mention countless other groups -- and Roger Miller, who was in both and, as of this writing, is leader of the Alloy Orchestra. Of the other members, drummer Boby Bear has been in a multitude of Boston-area bands and has worked extensively with Willie "Loco" Alexander, bassist Clint Conley ultimately got out of music and became a television producer. However, the Moving Parts did not plunge quite so far into musical history as did Burma or Birdsongs; they lasted just 13 months, played only 13 gigs, and cut the 15 songs on Arf Arf Records retrospective Wrong Conclusion in 1978 when they were already moving in different directions. A proposed single materialized only months after the group disbanded, and was rendered irrelevant by the ascent of Mission of Burma and the need for the Moving Parts' members to spare its scant resources on projects that were reasonably current and might do them some good, such as Lindgren's early group the Space Negros.
Though a child of the punk era, in purely superficial terms Wrong Conclusion stands right in the doorway between post-punk and straight ahead pop groups of the mid-'70s. However the members of this group were such a bunch of brainiacs any hope that they might have produced pure, four-chord punk, or even ordinary "new wave" such as it was defined by their Boston compatriots the Cars, was a distant one indeed. Moreover, they liked -- gasp! -- Frank Zappa, whose work belonged to a universe that was strictly off-limits to 1977 punkers.
Nevertheless, their "wrong conclusion" -- a blend of brainy lyrics, compound meters, wrong note harmony, thrashy '60s garage rock and squeaky-clean execution of complicated musical ideas -- is a fascinating one. It's art punk alright, but it is definitely not the same conclusion that Pere Ubu, or the No New Yorkers, or the more advanced English groups like Scritti Politti, came anywhere near. Although the talking-like singing throughout Wrong Conclusion is probably its weakest element, the group's work definitively demonstrates that new wave and elements drawn from progressive rock were not the oil and water combination most at the time felt it to be. Naturally, it is fascinating to hear tunes such as "Max Ernst" -- familiar from its turn in Burma -- done in its "alternative universe" mode with the Moving Parts. Many of the other songs as "X-Machine," "Innocence," "1984," "Anti-Aircraft Warning" and "945-3554," and "What Should We Do" are equally strong and make this collection highly desirable to those who want to know more about the American Underground in the '70s. The notes by Eric Van are satisfyingly well detailed, and the recordings are all studio tracks -- no sub-standard cassette-made recordings here. A treasurable memento of a band whose time may never have come, but whose unique combination of ideas might have reset the course of rock music -- and who knows? Maybe it did.