Live Review: Box Elders, The Shanks; CD Review: Everything Absent or Distorted…

Category: Blog — @ 1:35 pm January 10, 2007

I got to O’Leaver’s last night at around a quarter after 9, having been tipped off that Box Elders had been added to last night’s line-up. They’d already started by the time I got there. Box Elders is a trio that features brothers Clayton and Jeremiah McIntyre on guitar and bass, and Dave Goldberg on drums and keyboards. I’d been told that Dave plays keyboards and drums at the same time, and sure enough, a keyboard was set up to his left next to his gigantic kick drum. But for the life of me, I didn’t notice him playing those keys at all. Instead, Goldberg focused on the skins, playing standing up in pure Goldberg style. There are a ton of good drummers in town — more technical drummers who play monstrous sets — but none play like Goldberg, who is impossible not to watch when he’s on stage with any band. When The Terminals first started a few years ago, I was a bit disappointed that Goldberg wasn’t behind the kit for that band, but as time has wore on, Brooks Hitt, who plays drums with them, has come to his own. Still, he’s no Goldberg. With the Box Elders, we get Goldberg at his stripped-down best (btw, he said afterward that he did play keys last night, I just couldn’t hear them). Beyond Goldberg, the cool thing about The Box Elders are those brothers’ duo vocals over a stripped-down punk that recalls early NYC punk (The Ramones came to mind, but is a bad comparison. Fact is, I’m not well-schooled in a genre that, frankly, I’m only now discovering, thanks to bands like these that have inspired me to search out more). Their best songs were the set closers, two tunes that bounced along with a solid groove that had people nodding along.

Box Elders were an unexpected treat. The band I’d originally planned to see last night was The Shanks, who’s 7-inch on Boom Chick is one of the better pieces of vinyl from ’06. This four-piece puts the “P” in Primitive Rock, with a style that borders on hardcore. Had this been 20 years earlier and in a hall in downtown Omaha, there surely would have been a pit in front of the band and plenty of elbows and boot-kicks to go around. It’s that kind of music, a style that, to me, recalled early ’80s hardcore by bands like Negative Approach, The Germs, Blight, whereas they count among their influences The Retards, The Cramps and Wipers. Noisy and rife with feedback and lots of yelling, The Shanks are blown-out and aggressive, but with an appealing, stupid Midwestern flare. I don’t want to know that they’d sound like (or act like) loaded.

I left before Brimstone Howl and Boston Chinks played (Hey, 5 a.m., folks, 5 a.m.).

And now, here’s another intern review:

Everything Absent or Distorted (A Love Story), The Soft Civil War (Needlepoint Records)– Plodding grunge may be the most inaccurate, yet to-the-point way to describe this album. This 7-piece comes from Denver with a certain approach to simple songs that makes them sound much more alive and full than one is accustomed to hearing. The song structures are loose and dirty, and somehow melodic. Imagine Snuffalufagus slowly moving down the street, but with a backing band in tow providing theme music for such a ridiculous spectacle. The lyrics are what really caught my attention. “Its too hot for murder/Lets go to the creek instead” was a gem on “Its’ This Way.” An all-too-real picture is created on “Closer Than You Think, Pt.1” with “Monday morning / Give us our razors / Feel like dying / But we’ll just shave and go on.” Rating: Yes — Brendan Greene-Walsh.

Tim Sez: I don’t know about “plodding.” I’ll say this: They know how to play melodic ’90s indie rock, sounding at times like they spent too much time with their Echo and the Bunnymen discs (when they weren’t playing their Pixies records). They’ve been compared to Elephant Six bands, and I can hear it, especially Neutral Milk Hotel on the songs that sport the most intricate arrangements (“Burial of Yards and Docks,” “Buried in Guitar”) which feature the occasional horn part. Other than that, they don’t have that sense of nostalgia that characterizes most other Elephant Six bands (and which I generally don’t like) They’re at their best when they leave their earnestness locked up and let the groove take over. Rating: Yes.

So there you have it, Brendan and I finally agree on something. Will there be more? Keep watching.

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