What exactly does it mean to "muscle holler and a moan"? We're not sure, either, but it sounds pretty intense. That's pretty much the point.
J Roddy Walston told Rolling Stone, "This song can be viewed two ways - if you dig deep you catch a glimpse of one version of my life story, or it can just be a cathartic primal scream for your commute home."
For those who prefer the latter, "muscle holler and a moan," "nerve hound moan," and "chop talking in the night" don't need to mean anything literal. They feel right when howled with raging abandon with the Business' raucous guitars and drums.
For those who prefer the former, the song is referencing the childhood of J Roddy Walston. He grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee - a place with a lot of churches. So many churches, in fact, that Walston recalls hearing it had more churches per capita than any other town in the nation. This explains "Heavy Bells" repeated lyric, "I know that old Catholic tone." It also means that the "heavy bells" are church bells.
Walston learned to play piano from watching his grandmother play gospel tunes. So, not only his childhood experiences but also his earliest musical education were grounded in traditional religion.
Walston's grandmother didn't like it when he started taking his piano playing in a less godly direction. "My grandma didn't get what I was doing at first," Walston told Spin in 2010. "She was like, 'Why are you playing like that?' 'Why are you singing like that?' 'Why are you doing this to me?'"
There seems to be a peek into Walston's psyche halfway through the song with the lyrics:
Blood and honey fixed to his beard
Chaser to the taste
I've come to fear
What that feared "taste" is may clarify other aspects of the song, but Walston's not revealed that as of yet.
One thing that is not ambiguous at all, with the repeated entreaty "all hail heavy bells," is that the heavy bells were a saving grace for Walston. Whether that means actual Catholicism, general religion, or simply music with no overtly religious connection at all, we can't be sure.
The Business' tour for the Essential Tremors album was "The Holler and Moan" tour, borrowing from the "muscle holler and a moan" lyric in the song.
In America, this made #22 on the Rock Airplay chart and #13 on the Alternative chart.