Music News & Reviews

Once full of promise, Moon Taxi now riding on fumes

Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi, seen at 2016 Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif.
Trevor Terndrup of Moon Taxi, seen at 2016 Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif. Invision/AP

The Nashville-based quintet Moon Taxi has been steadily gaining a wider following over the past decade and we’re happy for them. But the cost, it now becomes clear, has been too high.

Moon Taxi - Let The Record Play cover

“Let the Record Play,” the band’s 10-track fifth album, due on streaming and in stores Friday, will be hard to take for some fans as Moon Taxi becomes progressively blander with each passing year.

Their sound has flattened out, with lyrics that have grown mushy and lack bite. Their transformation into a lite version of Kings of Leon is almost complete.

The issue isn’t their musicianship, which remains tight, intricate and top-notch. Nor does it have to do with Moon Taxi’s blend of indie-prog rock, led by Trevor Terndrup’s special voice. It’s just that “Let the Record Play” would be a triumph for any other band. For Moon Taxi it’s just treading water.

Any urgency, any sense of experimentation is mostly gone. This may be what happens when you combine a big record deal — the band is newly signed to RCA — with the payday that comes when Moon Taxi songs get used in commercials from BMW to McDonald’s. “Hey, hey, hey/Now we’re looking good/Now we’re looking good as gold,” go the taunting lyrics in one new song.

Moon Taxi used to deal with social issues — “All the Rage” from the brilliant 2012 album “Cabaret” condemned extremism — and played with different sounds, as in “The New Black” from 2013.

On the new album, they lean on sunny and shimmery sounds, with only a few songs at the end — particularly the excellent “Trouble” — making any sort of impression.

And the closest they get to social consciousness is on “Two High,” a half-hearted attempt to resist and connect people on a grass-roots level (“We can walk together/With our hands up in the sky”). It’s sort of fitting for this album that that’s also the gesture for surrender.

Moon Taxi performs at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Manchester Music Hall, 899 Manchester Street in Lexington. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show and $60 VIP at ManchesterMusicHall.com.

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