Can a garage band make do without having studiously completed their required listening? Mozes and the Firstborn answer affirmatively, if not emphatically.
Loose, unschooled and without scruples, the Netherlands youths seemingly have yet to make it through every volume of Nuggets, torrent Pebbles or even hear of Back From The Grave. Their proper self-titled debut on Burger Records plays like the work of a band that, in their formative years, discovered garage pop by chancing upon the Strokes’ “Last Nite” video, before subsequently graduating to the Black Lips then working their way backward.
Rather than bowing at the altars of the expected mythical figures, Mozes and the Firstborn primarily take influence from—and some probable low blows at—their peers. As such, it’s difficult to tell whether the dumbass, hot-shit guitar licks of “What’s Wrong, Momma?” come from close inspection of Sticky Fingers, a TV advertised “Best of Southern Rock” compilation or the Strange Boys’ Be Brave.
Yet Mozes and the Firstborn’s dubious pedigree generates certain unexpected pleasures, readily apparent in the idiotically catchy single-as-self-reflexive-anthem “I Got Skills.” Yes, the song has an actual hook that sticks around after a single listen (maybe these things are easier to write if you’re ignorant of the stratospheric standards set by T. Rex A-sides). But of equal import are the surprisingly astute lyrics, which seem to caricature the very Neanderthal rocker hack-types who foolishly try to swagger into the space vacated by the late Jay Reatard with songs not nearly as memorable as this one (summarily: “I might act like a free man/But I’m afraid like you all”).
Elsewhere, “Seasons” and “Time’s a Headache” suggest what a latter-day Wavves record might have sounded like had Nathan Williams mastered the ability to write more than a decent track or two per album. Perhaps this owes to vocal similarities between Williams and Mozes and the Firstborn lead singer Melle Dielesen, as well as a likely common affinity for Bleach. Or maybe it’s that unabashedly mid-fi aesthetic, which instantly compromises both artists’ pursuits of offhand grittiness.
Still, both the record’s best and most uninspired moments fully warrant the “sounds like it was written in five minutes” cliché. And, as proven by so many sub-Seeds level bands in ’66 (not to mention a slew of present-day Burger artists), under-thought angst can suffice as both method and muse for the kind of serviceable garage rock Mozes and the Firstborn trade in. Whether or not they’re aware of their own lineage is a wholly separate matter.