It seems as if you can't read anything about Moxy Früvous these days that doesn't also drop the name of Barenaked Ladies, that other bunch of Canadian nerds who just happen to combine diverse musical styles, pop-culture references and a sense of humor straight out of Kids in the Hall. What is it about the Great White North that's causing the proliferation of these tuneful wiseass bands?
Whatever it is, we Americans clearly want to hear more. Moxy Früvous, of course, has been around for most of this decade, long enough to attract a devoted following known as Fruheads and develop a sound that combines elements of the Beatles, Squeeze and XTC but carries a wry twist that's all their own. The group -- Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Jian Ghomeshi and Dave Matheson -- started out as an a cappella group of buskers, which sharpened their harmonies as well as their ability to improvise. They've parlayed that into a number of albums -- six releases over six years -- that feature clever, catchy tunes like "Michigan Militia" and "Stuck in the '90s."
It's somewhat ironic, then, that even as the BNL boys kick the novelty thing into high gear with a song like "One Week," their most recent release, Moxy Früvous' Thornhill (Razor & Tie) downplays the humor in favor of a warmly nostalgic collection of songs about the Toronto neighborhood in which they came of age. It's an album about growing up in suburbia, where the dilemmas are hardly life-or-death but seem no less momentous at the time -- holding up the ticket line trying to decide whether to see the latest flick by Woody Allen or one by Quentin Tarantino. Fruheads may moan that the group is less edgy now than in the past, but that's a part of growing up, too.