Published Jun 04, 2020Having known each other for years, it's not a huge surprise that Paul Banks (Interpol) and guitarist Josh Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman, the National, the War on Drugs), along with drummer Matt Barrick (Fleet Foxes, the Walkmen) have had Muzz simmering for the past five years, as busy schedules kept the trio's sessions sporadic yet creatively invigorating.
Stripped of some of the New York swagger of Banks's Interpol, Muzz escape the fate of the other supergroups who can't escape the shadow of their other projects. There is a subtle scrappiness to Muzz's self-titled debut, often propelled by Barrick's expressive percussion on cuts like "Knuckleduster" or "How Many Days." Punchy guitars, vibrant vocals and a live-off-the-floor vibe remove any pretension that might be lingering. Even with the addition of programmed drums, strings and horns that accompany tracks like " All Is Dead to Me," "Bad Feelings" or "Chubby Checker," they seem like organic additions to songs, rather than purposeful studio decisions.
Too often, supergroup side-projects come across as ego-building exercises, yet Banks has managed to avoid this with both his collaboration with Wu Tang Clan's RZA (on Banks & Steelz) and now with Muzz. Kaufman's touches are all over the album, from slick slide guitar on "Evergreen" to the ebullient horns on opener "Bad Feeling" or the understated keys on "Red Western Sky." It's also equally hard to imagine Muzz's identity without Barrick's unique skills as a drummer in two disparate worlds, DC hardcore and jazz, which propel many of the group's songs. Ultimately though, the sum is greater than its parts with Muzz.