Monday, May 10th, 2010
Shout Out Louds and Freelance Whales at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangI detected a sense of general disappointment, critically speaking, around Shout Out Louds’ latest record Work, mostly centered around the fact that it didn’t represent as big a leap from 2007’s Our Ill Wills as that record did from their debut Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. And if we allow that there’s a way to quantify such things, it’s probably true – Work isn’t as sonically lush as its predecessor and its songs are more efficient, and it generally splits the difference between the grand Ills Wills and the scrappy Howl Howl. But what those who criticize Work on the basis that it’s not another watershed moment in their career – because those typically immediately follow previous watershed moments – seem to miss out on is the much more important fact that it, like the rest of Shout Out Louds’ oeuvre, is laden with glorious jangly and melodic indie-pop that’s as suited to dancing as rocking.
And though some critics might not get that, the fans do, and their first Toronto show in two and a half years on Saturday night at the Mod Club was sold out well in advance – even the lone scalper out front only had one ducat to offer. About 100 or so of the 500-plus who’d eventually be in attendance showed up early enough to see New York’s Freelance Whales do their thing, which was play clever and ultra twee pop from their debut album Weathervanes. I’d seen them do said thing back at SxSW but that was a break-of-day set where I wouldn’t have expected anyone to be at their best and appropriately, their set on this evening – though also technically early – was much peppier and pep is kind of essential to their sound, all made of glockenspiels, harmoniums, banjos and five-part harmonies. And while on record they can drift to the wrong side of wimpy, live they beefed up their sound enough – volume wins! – to keep it engaging. And closing (though not deliberately as they thought they’d have time for one more) with a well-intentioned if not entirely tidy cover of Broken Social Scene’s “7/4 (Shoreline)” was a nice nod to the city… or as they wryly noted, “that one’s called ‘pandering'”.
I remember Shout Out Louds’ October 2007 show as a lively affair that took some of the polish off of the Ill Wills album arrangements, and their SxSW 2008 as a raucous, stage trashing throwdown – this time, they split the difference between the two and turned in what was the best performance I’ve seen them do yet. Perhaps it was the pressure of a hard 10PM curfew, but kicking off with Work leadoff track “1999”, they barrelled through their 90-minute set without much let up in energy and with only just enough missteps to count as charming, particularly early on when Adam Olenius lept into the audience for “Tonight I Have To Leave It” and had a bit of trouble climbing back onstage. By and large, though, the show was a fast-paced romp through all of their records – Work was well-represented but not at the expense of older favourites – that got the house up and kept them there, particularly with the sing-along encore closer of “Walls”, which was marked by much jumping up and down and arm-waving. Perhaps if, a few records from now, Shout Out Louds are still ploughing the same field of inspiration, I might find myself on the side of those who wish they’d try to branch out a bit more but for now, a record like Work and a show like this, are plenty to keep me satisfied.
Photos: Shout Out Louds, Freelance Whales @ The Mod Club – May 8, 2010
MP3: Shout Out Louds – “Walls”
MP3: Shout Out Louds – “Tonight I Have To Leave It”
MP3: Freelance Whales – “Generator 2nd Floor”
Video: Shout Out Louds – “Fall Hard”
Video: Shout Out Louds – “Walls”
Video: Shout Out Louds – “Tonight I Have To Leave It”
Video: Shout Out Louds – “Impossible”
Video: Shout Out Louds – “Please Please Please”
Video: Freelance Whales – “Generator 2nd Floor”
MySpace: Shout Out Louds
MySpace: Freelance Whales
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