MOVING TARGETS’ Burning in Water (Taang!) was one of the most pop-friendly discs that hardcore kids loved, and vice versa.
In the summer of 1994, Green Day hit Boston for a now-legendary show at the Hatch Shell. The guy carrying drummer Tre Cool’s bags at the hotel was a former punk-rocker himself, and recognizing a kindred spirit, he introduced himself as Pat Leonard and said he used to play bass in a Boston band, Moving Targets. The Green Day star’s eyes went up: “Moving Targets! I started playing drums because of you guys!” Leonard got to hang with Green Day backstage for the rest of the night, and he made a frantic call to Moving Targets singer/guitarist Kenny Chambers the next day. “I’m sure there was a lot of talk about trying to put the band back together,” Chambers recalls.
They didn’t do it then, but they’re doing it now. Seven years since their last gig (a WMBR one-off in early 1999), Moving Targets — with Chambers, original drummer Pat Brady, and bassist Chuck Freeman (who replaced Leonard in 1987) — are back, and they may be sticking around for a while. They were prompted to reunite by long-time friend and supporter Carmelita, who’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of her WAAF-FM show Bay State Rock at the Abbey Lounge this Saturday. Moving Targets will headline with Hooray for Earth, SSD singer Springa doing a DJ set, and a late addition of the all-original Outlets.
There was another motive for reuniting: it’s now the 20th anniversary, give or take a few months, of Burning in Water (Taang!). Loud, impassioned, and remarkably polished for a debut, that album is one of the landmarks of its era — one of the most pop-friendly discs that hardcore kids loved, and vice versa. And to some extent, Chambers and the band have lived in its shadow ever since. The later Targets albums are better than the band think they are, and Chambers has done plenty of underrated work on his own. But fans tend to feel that the debut had a spark that the later albums lacked, and the band agree.
“We were wearing our hearts on our sleeve,” Brady says when we all sit down at the Abbey. “We were young and had never really recorded anything before, so we gave it everything we had. I think 10 of the songs were tracked in one day; we were just full of youthful energy.” Chambers adds, “The other Targets albums were more like albums of convenience — we had enough money, so let’s get as many of our songs down as we can. The later records were maybe done too quickly, maybe some of the songwriting wasn’t there. But I can hear Burning in Water and know that I was involved in at least one really good thing.”
So they’re hoping that this time they can come up with a follow-up album that everybody’s satisfied with. The plan is to play the Abbey show and a Brooklyn date, then regroup to think about further shows and taking it to the studio. “It would be nice to have a Moving Targets record on a par with the first one,” Chambers says. “Can we do it? Who knows. Do I think I could write songs on that level? Absolutely.”