Raw Mojo is a 3 piece rock band you may have seen at shows around Iowa City. Their M.O. is to deliver short, concise stabs of pure rock and roll, without frills, pretension or irony. They deliver 10 songs in less than a half hour, and each song comprises the same ingredients — raw-throated singing, overdriven guitar, bass, and heavy drumming. Skipping around between songs in ITunes I notice that nearly the same guitar tone is used on every song. And yet the songs don’t all run together — perhaps relentless brevity pays off. And besides, Angus Young of AC/DC has never done anything but plug a Gibson SG into a Marshall Stack, so there’s a strong precedent for Raw Mojo’s willingness to pick a formula and stick to it.
As for the songwriting, well here’s the curious thing. I like the songs fine, but there’s nothing stellar about them in and of themselves. The personality, attitude, and execution is the thing with Raw Mojo; it’s as though they don’t want to waste time on song-writing that could be spent on rocking. And on the whole it works. On songs like “Punk,” Raw Mojo riff like their lives depend on it. The song wind up being catchy, even with the hook of the chorus being nothing more than a telegraphed pentatonic bleating. The album closer “Take Her Away” has bassist ‘Miss Nikki’ getting her Joan Jett on to good effect in the CD’s only ballad. Nikki fully commits to the persona of Rock&Roll Mama, and has the pipes to back it up.
I’ve only got MP3s of the album so it’s hard to comment definitively on the production, but the choices Raw Mojo made during recording seems to be stripped down and, err, raw. I can hear Miss Nikki’s bass and the kick drum, but the sound is almost all midrange, which emphasizes the sharp edges of their live sound. There’s so little studio trickery on this CD that the few songs on which the vocals get treated with a wet reverb it stands out as a surprising texture. What comes through most of all is how tight the band is, as though they’ve been practicing these songs in their basement forever. And that’s Raw Mojo’s secret: they’ve focused on the pure joy of playing rock music so completely that virtuosity or ‘originality’ or sophisticated song writing would be an unnecessary distraction.