Live Review: Swords, Dios (Malos)

Category: Blog — @ 4:55 pm October 23, 2005

I went to see Swords last night. I left discovering Dios (Malos). Swords weren’t bad. The six-piece band that included two drummers (one of whom also fiddled with electronic noises), a keyboard/violinist and a couple guitarists had way too much going on and the result was muddled and unfocused. Their music actually sounds bigger and more thought-out on CD. Live, it’s a bit too fey and yearning for my tastes. One guy described them as sounding “pretty.” Another patron complained “Could they sound anymore like Death Cab?” Well, other than the lead vocalist’s upper-register voice, they sounded nothing like DCFC, not nearly as catchy or interesting. Maybe they just didn’t have it last night. O’Leaver’s small size can be either intimidating or disappointing to bands, even if its full as it was last night. Their set seemed like it lasted about 20 minutes and was over without a flourish. “Are they done?” the guy in front of me asked. Looks that way.

I had zero preconceived notions about Dios (Malos). Like I mentioned yesterday, I got lost on their website and never found any music files online. After last night, I don’t think I’ve been turned on by a band as much since maybe The Smithereens’ first album. No, Dios doesn’t sound anything like The Smithereens. They do have a similar aesthetic regarding traditional song structure. But the comparison ends there. Dios also has a relationship with My Morning Jacket in that giant-sized singer/guitarist/keyboardist Joel Morales uses a huge amount of reverb and delay in his vocals, which make them sound — appropriately — big and haunting. You knew it was going to be special when, during the pre-set sound chec,k Morales improvised piano fills to New Order’s “Temptation” which was playing on the juke box. Their first song played off the opening organ chords of Led Zeppelin’s “All of My Love” before turning into a Dios original, sort of (I think it was merely a warm-up exercise). Whereas everything seemed lost and confused with Swords’ mix, the sound couldn’t have been any better for Dios — they did have an unfair advantage in that drummer Jackie Monzon would make my top-five “best of” list for drummers seen and heard at O’Leaver’s — unbelievable stuff. So were the songs, whose So Cal sensibilities and nod to retro supersede any indie rock labels, though they certainly are an indie band. Uber-engineer Phil Ek produced their just-released eponymous CD on Star Time that captures the band’s crisp take on laid-back rock. A pleasant surprise.

Tonight: Fromanhole at O’Leaver’s with Landing on the Moon and touring band from Minneapolis, Self-evident. Just added to the bill: self-proclaimed rock/blues/death metal band Black Horse.

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