Moving Targets

Few Boston rock bands have burst onto the local scene as fully formed and as blisteringly proficient as Moving Targets. More than 25 years after its release, the trio’s debut, Burning in Water, is still an epiphany—a volcanic and wildly charismatic blend of distinct styles, influences, and talents. “We were wearing our hearts on our sleeve,” drummer Pat Brady once said regarding the album’s recording process. Yes, hearts on sleeves—with a foot on the accelerator and a fist in the air.

Brady joined vocalist/guitarist Kenny Chambers and bassist/vocalist Pat Leonard in forming Moving Targets in 1981. The group’s first big break was inclusion on 1984’s Bands That Could Be God, a compilation of Massachusetts artists that was curated by Gerard Cosloy, founder of the well-known music fanzine Conflict. Moving Targets’ three contributions to the comp—“Changing Your Mind,” “Waiting for the End,” and “Selfish”—were produced by Lou Giordano, who was associated with the renowned local recording studio Fort Apache.

Giordano assumed the producer role for Burning in Water and coaxed an exceptionally varied performance out of the trio, one that crackled with energy yet never spiraled into chaos. Chambers’ anthemic guitar hooks entangled with the frenetic thrash supplied by the rhythmic section of Leonard and Brady. Burning in Water—released on Curtis Casella’s Taang! Records in 1986—was indebted to a variety of genres (hardcore punk, classic rock, power pop) yet managed to sound sharp and authentic. The Boston Phoenix once described it as “one of the most pop-friendly discs that hardcore kids loved, and vice versa.”

However, Moving Hearts’ volatility, a staple of its live shows and a driving force behind its creativity, allegedly contributed to the group’s undoing. Chambers began playing with the Boston post-punk outfit Bullet LaVolta. Meanwhile, Leonard departed, giving way to Chuck Freeman, who was firmly established as the band’s bassist by the time Burning in Water’s follow-up was released. Brave Noise was less brash, more polished; nestled among the breakneck jams were songs that uncoiled slowly. Songcraft took precedence over speed.

Two more LPs were issued on Taang!: 1991’s Fall and Take This Ride two years later. By the time of the latter release, Chambers was the group’s only remaining founding member. He was joined by a pair of ex-members of the Boston band Jones Very: bassist Jeff Goddard and drummer Jamie Van Bramer. Following Moving Hearts’ dissolution, Chambers remained busy, releasing solo material and continuing his stint with Bullet LaVolta.

A one-off reunion show for WMBR took place in 1999 followed by another local gig a year later. In 2007, the lineup of Chambers, Brady, and Freeman regrouped for a series of shows. There was even chatter regarding a new album. Sadly, it never happened, as both Leonard and Brady passed away.

(by Ryan Foley)

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