Music Reviews
Uneasy Laughter

Moaning Uneasy Laughter

(Sub Pop) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

There's no worse enemy than one's self-belittlement, a feeling that Sean Solomon is well aware of on Moaning's second album, Uneasy Laughter. On the Los Angeles trio's high-strung single, Make it Stop, he gets lost in his mind with doubt, admitting to his anxiety over a rush of ringing guitars. But contrary to 2018's similarly murky self-titled debut, Solomon doesn't just wallow in misery—and instead aspires to be better. The difference in tone shows both musically and lyrically—on Stranger, a backdrop of crystalline synths and overdriven, distorted haze coalesce as Solomon delves deeply into his failures: "I just needed help, don't know who to turn to." The band turns to Disintegration-era The Cure and early 4AD albums for a stylistic change, but they also dress that part very, very well.

Moaning has since moved on from their San Fernando Valley punk beginnings to receive broader national attention, managing to shine the spotlight back on L.A.'s often-dismissed DIY indie music scene. And with that, the band has since expanded on their raw, post-punk sound by introducing swaths of synthesizers. Songs like Ego and Connect the Dots are just as rhythmically propulsive but a little bit dancier than before, as if Moaning wants to inject some life into the grubby industrial chug of late-seventies Factory Records. The urgency that they've applied to their work remains consistent despite these changes, just like on the aptly-titled Running, where the trio aims for a nervy, yet soaring hard-driving rocker that colors outside of the usual new wave tropes.

It also helps that Solomon is quite the evocative singer despite his soft, monotone voice, internalizing his hurt without overdoing the songs with swelling emotional grandeur. Given that Uneasy Laughter is guitar-centric first and foremost, both Saving Face and What Separates Us benefit from having muscular riffs that help offset its huge synth lines and Solomon's tenuous vocal range. Which is Moaning's greatest strength, but can be a weakness too, as they haven't been fully able to add more personality to their vulnerable, dark romanticism. Still, Moaning know how to be piercingly direct, imbuing their performances with a desperation and a yearning that feels genuine. When Solomon sings words like "Do I want this or should I carry on," you believe him—since you've most likely said them to yourself and in the exact same way.