Take The L

Quite possibly the fastest-playing jam band out there, moe. also have one of the fastest-growing fanbases. The Buffalo, N.Y., foursome, all too often lumped in with the school of Phish, stocks its new release with everything from speedy, guitar-laden jams à la Rush and Primus to playful, funked-up ska numbers.

Containing over 200 minutes of live music performed during the band's 1999 fall tour, L presents lightning-fast guitarist/vocalist Al Schnier & Co. in their most comfortable element: the stage.

"Timmy Tucker" (RealAudio excerpt) is a 20-minute epic, full of glorious guitar explorations and chugging basslines that evaporate into a gentle close. The song also illustrates that while moe.'s propensity toward the grandiose may alienate some listeners, their vocal harmonies and juxtaposed musical styles are likely to transfix just as many; psychedelic country, jazz and blues all are sprinkled over their funked-up, roots-rock mix.

With its whimsical lyrics and happily bouncing beat, "Spine of a Dog" (RealAudio excerpt) reveals the band's quirkiness, while "Buster" displays Schnier's beautifully confident strumming. The relatively brief (10 minutes) "Plane Crash" (RealAudio excerpt) proves the band can tighten things up but still deliver the goods.

A bit cumbersome as an introduction to moe., L is ideal for fans seeking a document of the band's live energy. For a more easily digestible album, last year's Tin Cans and Car Tires is a better bet.