Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
The M's stand for all those pioneers, the ones who made a pop song better than bubble gum and sweeter than hot buttered rum. The ones who cooked candies and chocolates with razor blades in them so that they'd be appealing to the kids, but still remain the meals for adults, who need to preserve some iota of sophistication, who could pick up the new TV on the Radio album the same day they bought a practical, energy efficient refrigerator.
Rock and roll is the young person's music, but when The Beatles decided to tout both sides of the equation - the part that would turn hooting girls to mush, the part that would incite mania (one and the same) and the part that was obviously influenced by heavy drug participation, along with insightful lyrics that went further beyond the surface than they get credit for sometimes, it became an institution that continues to enthrall, entertain and perplex one person after another, trying to put a finger and a thumb upon what makes a song so irresistible, so desirable. Usually, the answer is everything, just as Russell Hammond and every other Hollywood version of a consummate diehard would utter.
The M's are a group that the city of Chicago - where all the members call home and some have begun raising their young families - should appreciate as being as valuable and attractive as The Bean in Millennium Park or Wrigley Field, full of the winning Chicago Cubs. Many of the members of the band are staunch supporters of the Chicago Bears, so the Bears and all of the people who fill Soldier Field on fall and winter Sundays should be M's supporters as well. Da M's could be their refrain, and a not so bad tee-shirt idea if the band is paying attention. They should be appreciated just as much as favorite sons Wilco are as the purest form of rock and roll in the city, where the point of it all is just to make great songs and drink some pints. The songs are supposed to actually feel like pints, or the effects that pints have on a person. They're supposed to take you into the buzzy ether and along for a spin like a slow-moving ceiling fan, stealing some swooning sways and getting caught up in a web of smoky smoke.
The band's latest full-length - Real Close Ones - is another buffet of all the right moves, of the bells and whistles, of the engine and the caboose, of the peanuts for the peanut gallery and of all the frosting that makes a cake what it is. This is blue-collared rock and roll that is about happy hours, frosty mugs and knowing exactly what makes your day passable, what makes it spectacular. It's assured and full of those innate sorts of hooks that are undeniably addictive, the kind that catch fish every time they're thrown into the river. They make whoppers of hooks, hooks that can't be believed, but there they are on tape for all to hear.
Robert Hicks, one of the band's three main singers and songwriters, sings about getting to the orchestra's (any orchestra's) performance while the players are rosining up their bows and tuning everything until it's just so. He insists that it's in those times, before the people have filed in with their tickets and their wine glasses, when the most enticing and spectacular music is being aired, when things are coming together in a cosmically perverse and satisfying way that goes way beyond reason. He suggests that you not be late, "Not for the moon." It's that pre-moon time that is rich for The M's, when they're that not-to-be-missed orchestral occasion - when they're overlooked or under-appreciated, dipping into those majestic pop waters, dunking their pipes into the cool and emerging with songs that feel as if they're for everyone, for every time that will ever be. They stand for and up to the masters that they've studied and memorized, looking them in the eyes, and winking as if they know something.