Their incendiary live shows (thanks “Almost Famous”) aside, upstate New York jamband moe. have set themselves apart from their noodling brethren for one reason: their ability to put out great studio albums.

It’s a tale as old as weed itself: a jamband enters the studio to record their breakthrough effort, but can’t capture the magic of its live shows and ends up releasing a piece of uninspired garbage.

While moe.’s last studio effort “Dither” proved once and for all that they could overcome this nearly universal curse, their new record “Wormwood”Êgoes one step further, raising the bar for all improvisational rockers. Using a process pioneered by Frank Zappa (but still rarely seen in theÊmusic world), moe. laid down the basic tracks for “Wormwood” onstage during their 2001 summer tour, then overdubbed guitars and vocals andÊre-tooled the songs in the studio.

The result is an album that literally combines theÊenergy and feel of a live show with theÊfull and crisp soundÊof a studio work. The album’s eight main tracks are tied together seamlessly byÊjams, just as moe. does it onstage. However, the band also shows remarkable restraint, never letting masturbatory noodlingÊstand in the way of a strong, succinct song.

As expected, the band’s sound varies from song to song: the unrestrained rock of the album opener “Not Coming Down” stands in sharp contrast to the easy-going, The Band-like feel of “Gone” and the calypso influence of the live staple “Kids.” Bassist Rob Derhak in particular stands out, laying down jaw-dropping bass lines while adding a little sugar to his usually rough-and-tumbleÊvocals.

The album may still be a little out of reach for those who still find jambands horribly long-winded and uninteresting, but I recommend anyone with open and adventurous musical taste pick up a copy of “Wormwood.”

— Andrew Roach