In commemoration of Cursive’s appearance tonight on Late Night with David Letterman, here’s one of the more scathing reviews so far for Mama, I’m Swollen from the Johns Hopkins News-Letter. The publication managed to find another critic who liked Happy Hollow, but then used it to call the new album “a bit of a back-pedal,” with “less of the sheer catchiness that makes your average Fall Out Boy rip-off so shamefully entertaining.” Uh-Oh. The Fall Out Boy reference is all you need to predict the rest of he review, which later references the Von Bondies. I’m not criticizing the reviewer or the review — it’s well written, though I don’t agree with her comments or her perspective. The most killing line: “These guys (Tim Kasher, Matt Maginn, Ted Stevens and Cornbread Compton) are upwards of 30 and it seems about time for them to step back from opening veins all over the pages of their own diaries.” Ouch. If Kasher isn’t supposed to write about his life, than what is he supposed to write about?
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So, for everyone who wasn’t in on the joke, Das Tango Boyz is/was Beep Beep doing a secret warm-up show at The Barley St. last night. The tip-off might have been that Pharmacy Spirits was opening and DTB was the “headliner.” Pharmacy Spirits’ James Reilly is now in Beep Beep, “replacing” Chris Hughes, who quit the band last year.
Pharmacy Spirits was my favorite band of the evening. A Lincoln 4-piece that features Reilly in the frontman role (looking like a younger, trimmer (taller?) version of Greg Dulli), they play college music (not indie, not punk, just college) the way I remember it and the way I love it. Each song carried a mesmerizing, throbbing, trance-inducing moment — usually toward the end — where all four got into a perfect rhythmic groove. At the heart of the matter is drummer Courtney Nore — she’s got a bracingly clean, uncluttered style, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her the entire set (yeah, I know, it sounds creepy). Sometimes I was reminded of Poster Children and The Pixies, and a couple times early in the set Reilly sang like a young Tim Kasher, but ultimately Pharmacy Spirits brings a modern touch to a college sound that thrived before the onset of all these retro, beirdo indie bands. And on top of that, they’re light-hearted enough to put their stamp on the Tommy James & the Shondells song (covered by Tiffany) “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Nice.
Oui Bandits were next and started by launching into two new songs not on their latest album, both of which were better than anything on their latest album (which is pretty darn good, btw). Their new material is more streamlined and straight-forward than the stuff on the record, and since I’m a sucker for a good melody, I loved it.
Finally, at around a quarter to 1, on came Das Tango Boyz playing what co-founder Eric Bemberger called “a Beep Beep practice set.” And by god, that’s exactly how it sounded. Once on stage, it took about 10 minutes for the band to sort out its instruments and technology before prying into the first of a set of 7 or 8 acidic, proggy, post-punk songs. Reilly appears to be filling the spot vacated by Hughes, but seemed a bit tentative and unsure at the microphone (compared to his Pharmacy Spirits set). And who can blame him? This is complicated music with vocals that intentionally sound like a man struggling with his own voice. But here’s the thing about the new Beep Beep album — half of it is the usual proggy noise assaults that you’d expect, and half sounds like moody, slow-stroll Fleetwood Mac FM rock — a real departure from their last record. So the first thing I wondered was whether they were going to play some of the more laidback, more melodic and less proggy stuff like the rollicking “Return to Me,” the late-night stroller “The Lion’s Mouth,” and the piano-sax-driven “Wooden Nickels.” The answer was no. Instead, it was 20 minutes of post-punk Beep Beep freak-out, with a couple songs on the end that turned into stone jams, anchored by a drummer wearing a bee costume, and the always entertaining Darren Keen on bass. So, a bit rough, but fun. It’ll be interesting to hear how they sound when they come back through town in April at The Waiting Room.
Speaking of Darren Keen, Saturday night at The Waiting Room is The Show Is the Rainbow CD release party for Wet Fists, the best album that Keen has ever created and the one that is going to place him in front of a larger national audience. Keen’s evolution into a singer-songwriter could be heard on his solo album that came out a few months ago. Melody has become the center of his music instead of just beats and irony. Don’t believe me? Check out moody instrumental “Wordless Whisper,” which is followed by funk-town dance number “Mother and Son,” which ranks up there with anything The Faint has been doing lately. This is one of the funnest records I’ve listened to in quite a while. Buy it at the show Saturday. Opening is Lincoln post-punk faves UUVVWWZ and one other band that Keen told me last night is a Stoner-rock-lovers dream.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s how the weekend is looking, starting with tonight:
At O’Leaver’s it’s the hard stuff with The Stay Awake and Perry H Matthews. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Benson has Fortnight playing at PS Collective with John the Savage and Dane. 9 p.m. $5; while over at The Barley St. She Swings She Sways plays with Jason Walsmith, Turtle Moon and Sean Haupt. $5, 9 p.m.
Over at The Saddle Creek Bar it’s The Reddmen, Lucky Losers, Eastern Turkish and Angry Eyebrows. $5, 9 p.m.
Where will I be tonight? With Teresa watching a fashion show featuring Project Runway winner Jeffrey down at The Slowdown.
Tomorrow night, as I mentioned, it’s The Show is the Rainbow CD release show at TWR. $7, 9 p.m. O’Leaver’s has another heavy night featuring Techlepathy, Ideal Cleaners and Dean Armband. $5, 9:30 p.m. And John Klemmensen has his CD release show at The Barley St. with Bright Light Fever. $5, 9 p.m.
Let’s not forget Sunday– Bloodcow, The Dinks, 20 Dollar Love and The Black Hand are at The Waiting Room, all for a mere $5.
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