Moving Units

Photo by Tenaya HillsMoving Units

V20, Long Beach

Fri, Dec. 9

Was that Paris Hilton? Oh, no, was THAT Paris Hilton? Was that that girl from some reality TV show? Was that, um, Johnny Knoxville? Aw, it was like you'd died and gone to Fox Sunday Night—everybody looked famous but wasn't but might be really soon if they did something totally hot or outrageous or disgusting or stupid with, to or in front of the right person or possibly just the right camera. Which is: the Moving Units, the band that traded local dignity for careers as professional, international, hipster-rock playboys and now have a rep for brainless, post-punk puffery tangled around their ankles like a shameful set of tighty-whities. The Rapture plus the Strokes, to put it cynically, or car-commercial music for tonight's car-commercial crowd—and you know one of the last times the Units came around locally was to set up in the Diesel storefront at South Coast Plaza. Which is: the mall, which doesn't help (and the Paul Frank store was superjealous and immediately tried to book Razorlight). But truly, you can hate what's played but not the players, and you can hate the Units' burnished-pleather gleam but not Johan Boegli's bass tone or drummer Chris Hathwell's hummingbird hi-hat work or even singer/guitarist Blake Miller, who has a voice that's maybe a little common (especially against the self-conscious, nodule-dislodging caterwaul of the bands the Units got too famous to open for) but common-good—indistinctive but eager to please, which is always a pleasure to work with, practically speaking. And so Moving Units are not a bad band when it comes to being a band—they just made some questionable choices, taste-wise. Which is: they, being savvy culturehawks, toothpicked a moment so precisely and completely and even elegantly they're now forever pinned to its grave. It was the summer of 2002, and the Rapture kept stalling their major-label release and electro-clash was a word a guy could say to a girl without wondering if she were really 18, a time when driving to the club did sorta feel like a car commercial—yellow lights and fast-food fries and bleach-blond hair and the disco-drum beat Hathwell probably snores in his sleep—and that was Moving Units. Fun till school started again. And now it's two years later and they're stuck back there and people who want to like them have to decide to stick there with them, and the reason every self-styled cool person in LA dips between a cringe and a wince when they mention the Units is—oh, yeah, besides all-consuming jealousy, since no one likes their own awful band—it seems like the Units went straight through the romance to the money when there was talent enough to have gone somewhere else. And now Bloc Party is gonna get comparably famous off the slightly cooler 2004 version of the old 2002 sound, and since there's only room for one sort of disco-drum, hipster-rock band at a time, the Moving Units are gonna have to look for some other way to make money. Which, since they're such good players together, could certainly be some high-paying studio-session work, which is probably going to be car commercials. (Chris Ziegler)

AND CONFIDENTIAL TO V20: Any tipsy cattery by colleagues is suddenly obsolete because V20 the Venue has nuclear potential as a live-entertainment spot—an easy and powerful (and classier) competitor to at least the Troubadour or the Roxy, and maybe, depending on capacity, the El Rey or Wiltern. It's a space with the sound system and bar and no-doubt-cushy greenrooms to lure in the million killer shows touching down in Hollywood and then bouncing off for New York—if Kool Keith can play the Vault up Pine Avenue, then MF Doom can play V20; if Moving Units can play tonight, then the Futureheads can play tomorrow, and then V20 will get the press and the reputation and the unshakeable place in Long Beach's cool-downtown crown it probably wants. Let's break character for a moment and be honest: there's a need for another tour stop for the hip-and-getting-hipper acts that never come south of Hollywood, and here's a place that's serious enough to get them. V20, you call Mariko Jones if you wanna set that up, and in 2005, we'll all be so happy.


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