1992: Moonshake - Eva Luna

Moonshake should by all rights be legendary. However, they remain one of the most distressingly slept-on bands of the 1990s, dropping three albums and a handful of singles and EPs that earned deserved critical plaudits but — as often proves the case with bands that test and warp one’s conception of music — failed to find much of an audience, although they weren’t outright ignored. Here’s what they had going for them:

1) Dave Callahan fronted The Wolfhounds, who initially started out as one of the leading lights from the C86 and twee era before developing more of an aggressive charge on their later releases.

2) Margaret Fiedler started out in a band with Moby in the 1980s (she dated him, actually), played in an embryonic version of Ultra Vivid Scene, and was featured in a brief one-off group called Critical Mass with two of the members of Moose. Later on Fiedler and bassist John Frenett split from Moonshake and received greater recognition with Laika; Fiedler would later perform live with PJ Harvey and Wire while Frenett worked with Gina Birch (ex-Raincoats) in The Hangovers.

3) Guy Fixsen, who did the bulk of the engineering on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, produced and served as a sort-of secret fifth member on Moonshake’s earliest records until he also defected to Laika.

4) After Fiedler left, luminaries like PJ Harvey, Katharine Gifford, and the late Mary Hansen (the latter two from Stereolab) made vocal appearances on the final Moonshake records after Callahan and drummer Mig carried on with the moniker.

5) Their sound started out as a less tinny take on the aesthetic of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless-era EPs, then veered toward an updated take on Can and Public Image Limited’s rhythmic propulsion with noisier guitar work and a predilection for sampling influenced by The Young Gods. More tinctures of jungle and jazz cropped on future efforts as well (drummer Mig would actually pound out the jungle beats himself while having to play against the band’s samplers) and the overall results sound like little else, bearing only passing resemblances to the output of Too Pure labelmates like Long Fin Killie and Th’ Faith Healers, as well as the somewhat recently reevaluated Disco Inferno.

6) Moonshake’s records have aged really well in the past 15-20 years. Most of their songs sound like they were committed to tape just yesterday, and the ones that don’t still aren’t too dated. Their lone session for John Peel’s legendary radio show on the BBC might possibly be the best one I’ve heard so far from his program, too.

7) As if there were not already incentive enough for you to look into them, they named themselves after a song on Can’s Future Days. (Just for the record, Can themselves borrowed it from a Japanese novel.)


All three of Moonshake’s albums and some of their EPs would make worthwhile starting points deserving of their own DeLorean entries. On any other day, I might be prone to write about 1996’s unjustly overlooked Dirty & Divine; the nocturnal, dense and almost impenetrable qualities of 1994’s guitar-free The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow; or perhaps draft a feature on their most definitive and fractured statement, the 1993 EP Big Good Angel. All those and more warrant exploration from other writers and listeners. However, I’ll opt for 1992’s Eva Luna, their most popular effort (relatively speaking) and arguably most accessible.

Released back in 1992 on this reviewer’s sixth birthday and presumably named for the 1988 novel by revered Chilean author Isabel Allende, Eva Luna commences with the tone-setting “City Poison,” an initially spare song centered around the dubwise basslines of John Frenett that gradually features more slashing guitars as it progresses. Dave Callahan relays a nasty but compelling piece of finger-pointing through his cutting, disgusted snarl, sounding like a cross between Mark Stewart (The Pop Group) and Cathal Coughlan (Microdisney, The Fatima Mansions) as he delivers countless grievances: “You slag off everything that I hold dear/ […] You fuck to find your peace of mind/ You can’t see the mess you leave behind/ Your progress is empty but sincere/ As you bring your city poison round here.” Margaret Fiedler takes the lead on the kinky “Sweetheart,” where her half-discernible jaded feline purr stalks behind a groove from Frenett that wavers between walking bass and an even deeper form of dub than the preceding track. (The vocal duties and writing credits between the two singers are split 50/50 on Eva Luna, whereas prior releases sometimes saw them collaborating and even singing each other’s songs.) An oscillating synth, smeared guitar, brass fanfare, and a stuttering hip-hop beat replete with a slamming “When the Levee Breaks” snare sound flesh out the song in question. “Spaceship Earth” rides atop careening guitars, dissonant synths and a clattering rhythm not too removed from Public Image Limited’s “Poptones,” while Callahan caterwauls about a man and his myopic view of having no chance at a future. “Beautiful Pigeon” sounds like a funhouse mirror version of “Sweetheart,” featuring a similar beat but with flourishes of almost grunge-like guitar work. Fiedler coos what seems to be a love song/contorted sexual scenario steeped in penury, with lines about “sleeping in shit and broken bottles,” being “together under bridges” and keeping a rope tied around a lover’s legs.

Eva Luna is a hard album to immerse yourself in, requiring multiple listens (as in the case of this reviewer) before it really clicks. For me, “Mugshot Heroine” was the most difficult track to delve into, but it’s the most rewarding and might be my personal favorite on the record. It’s the nasty centerpiece — almost an anticipatory template for the dark The Sound Your Eyes Can Follow — centered around another booming bassline and beat in the vein of “Sweetheart,” an Arabic loop seemingly culled from something like a snippet of a Fairuz record (I don’t REALLY know that for sure, mind you), and a lyric about being sucked into prostitution and the resultant troubles stemming from it, with some jazzy horns cropping up during the chorus. “Wanderlust” features a tabla-centered polyrhythmic groove reminiscent of the sumptuous “Coming” from their First EP, but a little uglier. The opening line is a great perversion of “Lust for Life” (“Here comes Johnny Vaaaaaaaa-graaaaant!”) and Callahan sounds particularly John Lydon-esque as he rants about “the spoiled kids yakking at your feet/ the two-faced people that you meet/ the backstab business deal you just complete (sic)/ you wanna know why your culture stagnated!

The mellow and jazzy “Tar Baby” features trippy descriptions of the activities of various fictional creatures like licorice eels and honey-ham cubs, but with tinges of familial and sexual politics. Sudden grinding guitar bursts frequently cut Margaret Fiedler off mid-groove, and the last flourishes dissipate into “Seen and Not Heard,” which — in this reviewer’s subjective and inflated opinion — should have done for music in 1992 what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” did for 1991. The dubby, pissed-off but (somehow) poised cool of the Jah Wobble-esque bassline anchors the track while careering guitars and snatches of flatulent synthesized noises top off the concoction; meanwhile, Callahan sneers as he embodies the role of a tyrannical father figure, subservient and respectable at work but changing personalities at home, winningly describing his family as “a microcosm: I’m the head of state/ my mother, she’s the Parliament/ the kids — the populace!” before spitting out, “In my house, I do what the fuck I want!

“Bleach and Salt Water” rides a spacey, floating groove as Fiedler delivers an oblique, Kristin Hersh-esque caricature of a damaged woman, but the ending soon grows ominous as Fiedler’s screams emanate from far in the background (almost as disturbingly as Kate Bush in “Get Out of My House”) before the music fades and Fiedler intones, “I’m lonely.” “Little Thing” concludes the album, featuring a dreamy soundscape with a low scraping guitar tremolo, another Wobble-like bassline and a bizarre time signature, accompanied by Fiedler’s hallucinatory description of how her mind’s occupied with the desire to “open a hole in my belly/ grab for my guts/ find that they’re gone.” Then she lets her lover know about it before dismissing her preoccupation as insignificant. You don’t believe her denial, though, particularly when she repeats, “Maybe I’ll start bleeding.

Eva Luna’s American edition on Matador also featured the three songs comprising the excellent Secondhand Clothes EP. The title track features another “Poptones”-like groove while Dave Callahan protests that he’d rather “sell (his) body to survive” and “realistically slit the chicken’s throat” than be caught in hand-me-downs. In a nice touch, Fiedler makes a rare collaborative vocal turn mid-song. She takes the helm on “Blister,” which actually features audible vocals from her AND a more direct lyrical approach than usual, this time concerning abuse and apprehension. She sounds like she’s almost on the verge of crying as she sings, “My hands shake/ no rhythm, no grace/ I feel like something has died inside me/ A face that won’t fade, a punch in the eye/ I start to see the years you put on my age/ growing in lines on my hands.” The music seems like a cousin of “Green” by Throwing Muses in its soft, dusky, and somewhat forlorn mood, but with dubbier textures, a free jazz saxophone break, and other assorted sonic flourishes. It’s possibly Fiedler’s best and most heart-rending song with Moonshake. The EP concludes with a Callahan track about a snitch and his sullied reputation called “Drop in the Ocean.” It features yet another big Frenett bassline and a stuttery but propulsive rhythm from Mig, with some dissonant samples alongside frequent, jarring screeches of guitar that eventually coalesce into a solo by song’s end.

Now that I’ve done the legwork in bringing Moonshake to your attention, give the songs above a listen, or preferably several listens so they’ll sink into you like pins in a cushion, and perhaps you’ll relish them as much as I do.


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

Most Read