Monday, December 15th, 2008
A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night
Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangBrevity is the watchword of the day. ‘Tis been a long weekend.
Heading into Thurday night’s show at the Horseshoe, I was interested to see the headliner, curious about the much-buzzed about support act and completely unfamiliar with the local opener. We’ll start there.
I’d not heard of Tropics but half of the duo was Slim Twig, whom I was also mostly unfamiliar but at least I’d heard his name before. But it was his bandmate, drummer Simone TB, whom I found much more interesting – together, they were turning out some seriously loud garage-a-billy but while Twig’s guitar and vocal approach reminded me of a more abrasive but less interesting Jon Spencer, TB’s drumming was always deft and inventive and pushed their sound into more unpredictable places.
The drummer also stole the show for the Brooklyn outfit Crystal Stilts, but that wasn’t necessarily much of a feat. That’s not meant to take away from what Frankie Rose contributed behind the kit, as she and guitarist JB Townsend did a fine job of giving the band’s Spector-worshipping pop some punch, but more a comment on the sucking charisma vacuum that was frontman Brad Hargett. His droning Ian Curtis-ish vocals, already swathed in metallic reverb on record, seemed to be buried even further in the live mix and when he occasionally stepped on the reverb pedal his mic was run through, he may as well have not been there – an impression augmented by his complete lack of physical presence. Though not turning my world upside down, I do find some of Crystal Stilts’ output interesting, if overly one-dimensional. Live, however, they were wholly unengaging.
This left it up to headliners Love Is All to make the night worthwhile and while their set barely clocked in at forty minutes, they more than delivered. I’ve only recently gotten into the band, mainly on the strength of their latest release A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, and was pleasantly surprised that they were even more enjoyable live. The scrappy production and clangy reverb of the recorded product gave way to a much fuller and polished live sound and a greater emphasis on their dancier attributes, thanks to a much more prominently feature Markus Gorsch – yes, the drummer once again ruled the day. But he didn’t steal the show – with a frontwoman as manic and energetic as Josephine Olausson, that’s next to impossible. Either banging away on her keyboard or caterwauling gleefully to the audience, and I mean that in the best possible sense, she led her bandmates through a delicate balance of sweet pop and sonic skronk.
The Chicago Tribune has a feature on Love Is All while The New Gay has a short interview with Olausson. The local media was apparently all excited about Crystal Stilts’ visit – there were pieces on the band in eye, NOW and Chart. Pity about their performance. To hear for yourself, check out a show available to download at NYC Taper – I haven’t listened to the particular show they’re offering, but I don’t think that the Toronto show was any kind of aberration from the norm. Call it a hunch. eye also has a review of the show.
Photos: Love Is All, Crystal Stilts, Tropics @ The Horseshoe – December 11, 2008
MP3: Love Is All – “Wishing Well”
MP3: Crystal Stilts – “Crystal Stilts”
MP3: Crystal Stilts – “Shattered Shine”
Video: Love Is All – “Wishing Well”
MySpace: Love Is All
If there was some way of knowing which Primal Scream was coming to North America next year, I might be more interested in their just-announced March 24 show at the
Opera House Phoenix (tickets $35). If we’re talking XTRMNTR or Vanishing Point Primal Scream, I’m in. If we’re talking Give Out But Don’t Give Up or Screamadelica, I’m out (heresy on the second one, I know but whatever). And I have no idea who they are circa their last few records. If they’re going to play “Shoot Speed/Kill Light”, that might be persuasion enough but something tells me the name of the first single off latest release Beautiful Future might prove to be prescient… This Is Nottingham interviews guitarist Barry Cadogan. Update: Venue appears to be different from what I thought – now the Phoenix, not Opera House.
Also just announced – Eagles Of Death Metal at the Phoenix on February 20, tickets $27.50.