Monday, August 25th, 2008
We Fit Our Charm
Photo by Frank Yang
It’s a fact that I don’t get out to see as many local bands play as I’d like. I know there’s a wealth of great or soon-to-be great acts in Toronto that are playing out every night, but it’s simply not possible to keep on top of everything. So it’s nice to have nights like last Thursday where I’m able to not only hit up a show comprised entirely of local talent, but for the bill to turn out to be as solid top to bottom as this one was.
The main draw for me was Oh No Forest Fires, whom I’d tried unsuccessfully to see many times since I first caught them last December. And though they were closing things out, it wasn’t officially their show – that honour went to Modern Boys Modern Girls, marking the release of their debut album I Might As Well Break It. And of the other two bands on the bill, Everything All The Time had been recommended to me a little while back and the other, Dinosaur Bones, well since I was headed down to the Horseshoe anyways, why not see everyone?
Actually, that’s being a bit disingenuous. I’d done some due diligence on Dinosaur Bones via their MySpace and was quite impressed with what I’d heard – they’ve got a sounds that’s fresh yet familiar, but not easily slottable into any particular genre or revival movement. If parallels must be drawn, then perhaps I’d liken them to a rawer (or maybe just less polished) Ambulance LTD, combining Anglo romanticism with a distinctly North American (okay, New York) urbanity. Darkly sophisticated stuff, I look forward to hearing more from this five-piece in the future.
You could be forgiven if you assumed, from the name, that Everything All The Time were an overly slavish Band Of Horses tribute band, but in fact dusty Appalachian roots-rock is about as far from what EATT are about as you can get. For starters, their setup had more keyboards (8) than band members (8) and no guitars. If you think from this that synth-pop is in order, then you’d be correct but there was so much more than that. True, they did start out with relatively twee electro-pop but as the set progressed, they began piling on the stylistic shifts with notable forays into jazz and by the end, full-on electro-funk and disco and doing it all almost seamlessly (I say almost because the saxophone solo stood out more than a bit). Interestingly, the singer on their debut record – Audrey Bankley – is decidedly of the indie folk school, yet their live singer – Alanna Stuart – is an old school soul singer… and yet it works. Really well. Go figure.
Though their name makes specific promises, Modern Boys Modern Girls only half deliver – yes, there’s boys and girls in the band, the latter in the form of two full-time backing singers – yet “modern” is not the best single word to describe them. Their barreling rock quite overtly cherry picks the past – girl group pop hookery and simplicity from the ’50s , stomping classic guitar rock from the ’60s and danceable grooves from the ’70s – and while it’s certainly not the first time that particular musical recipe has been put to work, MBMG deliver it with a swagger and aplomb that makes it seem like they, at least, believe they’re the ones who thought it up. Exceptionally tight, MBMG strike an impressive balance between the party and the polish.
Contrarily, “polish” is not a word you’d use to describe Oh No Forest Fires. The last time I saw them I alluded to them sharing musical headspace with Broken Social Scene and while that knack for pulling pop out of chaos is definitely still present… there’s a lot more chaos. Actually, “bedlam” was the word that most jumped into my head the most, watching the four piece gleefully bound around the Horseshoe stage, eventually demolishing as much of their equipment as the possibly could. Some bands like to jump around on stage – ONFF move like they’re in a pinball machine stuck on “TILT” and slowly filling with lava, and yet they manage to deliver their songs rather impeccably. It’s really something to behold. Their now-completed, soon to be released debut album The War On Geometry should better demonstrate the band’s songwriting chops and range, but for the full, in-your-face experience seeing them live is the way to go. Do so before they blow up. Or self-immolate.
Photos: Oh No Forest Fires, Modern Boys Modern Girls, Everything All The Time, Dinosaur Bones @ The Horseshoe – August 21, 2008
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “Swing And A Misdemeanor”
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “We Fit Our Charm”
MP3: Modern Boys Modern Girls – “My Baby Says Boy, Don’t You Ever Go”
Stream: Modern Boys Modern Girls / I Might As Well Break It
MySpace: Modern Boys Modern Girls
Jenn Grant has two dates scheduled for Hugh’s Room on September 27 and 28.