Saturday, June 10th, 2006
Applause Cheer Boo Hiss
Most nights of NxNE feature one lineup that is obviously the hot one of the evening, be it for one act on the bill or all. Usually they’re for larger names and are appropriately at one of the larger venues like Lee’s or the ‘Shoe – but Thursday night, it was The Boat, a tiny stage-less nautically-themed club in Kensington Market and the showcase assembled by Maple Music.
Kicking things off were Midland, Ontario (read: cottage country) trio Born Ruffians with a set of obscenely tight, rhythm-heavy tunes with the requisite amount of quirk. At times reminding me of The Dismemberment Plan’s hillbilly cousins their songwriting could be a little too willfully scattershot for their own good but the musicianship and energy was undeniable – the standout tunes were the ones where they just rode their obvious musical chemistry into parts unknown and jammed it out. If and when their songwriting finds some more focus, they could be fearsome.
Montreal’s Land Of Talk were my main attraction on this bill, the shoddy-audio MySpace clips intriguing as much as annoying, and I am pleased to report that they did not disappoint in the least. Frontwoman Elizabeth Powell’s voice is an incredibly emotive rasp, every inflection loaded with plaintive yearning. The songs are superb slabs of post-punk (in an entirely non-forumlaic way) and have a grittiness and urgency that suit Powell’s voice very well. I also picked up the EP, Applause Cheer Boo Hiss, and it is amazing. This band is bound for huge things – one could argue they were the least charismatic band on the bill but I for one will take songs over antics any day of the week. Their next show in town will be the Dog Day Afternoon festival curated by Metric on July 15 at Fort York. I won’t be going to that, but next time they play a club in town, you bet your sweet bippy I will be in attendance. All I can say further is that it’s a damn shame the record isn’t a) 8 songs or b) longer than 30 minutes…
If Land Of Talk were all about tension, then killthelights were the release. While their influences (again, 80s American and UK alt/indie) are hardly original, they have a gift that eludes many of their peers – the gift of the anthem. Hugely hooky without losing any edge, their songs are radio-friendly (in the completely non-suck sense of the phrase), their live show is high-energy and the vocal interplay between guitarist Alex Hackett and keyboardist Steph Hanna is superb. I don’t know where these guys came from – I’d never heard of them before save what I heard on their MySpace, but a completely welcome surprise. Their debut album is Winter Asthmatics and their next show is June 17 at The Drake with NYC’s Levy and Toronto’s The Two Koreas.
The Adam Brown were also visiting from Montreal and unlike the previous three acts, all of whom owed some debt to the 80s post-punk scene, they drew their influences from what can best be described as straight classic rock. I heard equal parts Mott The Hoople and Springsteen in the mix, though louder and faster than either. They had tremendous energy and an audience that was totally into it which always makes for an electric atmosphere, but I thought the rock star moves were a trifle overdone. MySpace here.
Though I didn’t stick around for the final band, what I did see was almost top-to-bottom impressive. I don’t think a single NxNE detractor, and to find one you really just need to swing a stick, could have disagreed – if shows like this were more the rule than the exception, then goddamn. Who needs Austin? I kid, I love you Austin.
I had been warned that the Boat was hard on photography, but I’ve never found a venue that made me consider using a flash more than this one. When a venue’s primary source of illumination is Christmas lights, you’re in for a good time. But I resisted and all things considered, my photos turned out okay.
Dig on some audio from the bands of the evening. And get that Land Of Talk EP. Seriously.
MP3: Born Ruffians – “Hedonistic Me”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Sea Foam”
MP3: Kill The Lights – “Skinny White Girls”
Video: Kill The Lights – “Arctic At Dawn” (MySpace)
MP3: The Adam Brown – “Give Me Back My Heart” (demo)
Sonic Youth will be at the Kool Haus on August 8 with The Go! Team in tow. Their new album, Rather Ripped, is out Tuesday and while some may complain that it’s too mellow and not noisy enough, I really like it because, well, it’s mellow and not especially noisy. Keep in mind these are descriptors relative to past Sonic Youth, though I think it’s keeping in perfect form with their last few albums which I’ve also liked the most of everything they’ve done (besides Daydream Nation, yes yes). A poster at Via Chicago has posted an interview transcript with Sonic Youth addressing Jim O’Rourke’s departure from the band. And here’s a track from the new O’Rourke-less record.
Stylus rounds up their top 10 post-Britpop flops. I had gotten Britpop out of my system by the time by the time most of these came out so I feel no need to defend any of them, save for Pulp’s We Love Life. Not because it’s an outstandingly good record – though it’s not terrible by any stretch – but simply because I think Pulp was good enough to transcend simple scene-lumping as another Britpop band.
Decemberist Colin Meloy gives Pitchfork an exclusive preview of their new album and then turn around and give Billboard almost the exact same preview. Ha ha, Pitchfork. Ha ha. The Crane Wife is out October 3. It had never occurred to me that the “crane” in the title was in reference to the bird – I always thought it was, well, this. Hey, if anyone could make up a story of some guy marrying a piece of construction equipment, it’d be Colin Meloy.
np – Television / The Blow-Up