Monday, September 10th, 2012
My Love Is Real
Divine Fits at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangTo call Divine Fits and their debut, A Thing Called Divine Fits, formulaic will probably be interpreted as a slight, but it shouldn’t. The album is rather exactly the sum of its songwriting parts – half Spoon, half Handsome Furs; a taut and lean thing built on spikes of square waves – be they made by synthesizers or fuzz pedals – and beats so tight they may as well have been quantized through state-of-the-art technology (though they almost certainly weren’t).
That it’s not more magical than that is probably more the fault of those with heightened expectations of what a Britt Daniel-Dan Boeckner collaboration might sound like, and one would have to question where they got those expectations from in the first place – it’s probably safe to say that the first people who thought that Daniel and Boeckner should work together were Daniel and Boeckner. In fact, it’s more remarkable that Divine Fits is as consistent and solid as it is, considering how relatively quickly it was written and recorded, with its high points ranking amongst anything they’ve done with their other bands. Boeckner’s contributions are arguably the more potent ones, not surprising considering the circumstances in which they were written, but none of the songwriting is b-list or cast-off material.
But what may have been mathematical in the studio was more akin to alchemy on the stage. Eschewing traditional tour routing for their first shows – their debut performances were in each of the band principals’ hometowns of Austin, Montréal, and Columbus – they played their twelfth-ever show last Wednesday night at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, a day after playing Los Angeles. Both Boeckner and Daniel have played much larger rooms in the city – the former with Wolf Parade, at least – so it was less a surprise that the room was fairly jammed than the fact that it wasn’t completely sold out.
As a band boasting the two lankiest frontmen in indie rock, Divine Fits have a striking visual presence, made moreso by their decision to dress with Boeckner in all black and Daniel in all white, sartorial etiquette be damned. And while they contrasted visually, live the complimentary nature of their musical aesthetics was so much more pronounced. Swapping guitar and bass duties as well as lead vocals – sometimes touring keyboardist Alex Fischel would cover on bass when a double-guitar attack was needed – they brought a strut and swagger to the show, but also a sincere sense of gratitude for everyone coming to see them – they didn’t take peoples’ attention for granted based on their past works. And while it was impossible to take your eyes off of Daniel and Boeckner, drummer Sam Brown’s contributions were surely felt. He may suffer from being the guy from the band the fewest people have heard of (though I did see someone in a New Bomb Turks t-shirt in rural Québec last weekend, so there’s that), but hearing him lay down the complex beats of the album on only acoustic drums gave the songs a more deliciously primal feel without coming at the expense of any of its rhythmic precision.
With the acoustic drums and heavier reliance on guitars than on the album, Divine Fits sounded almost uncannily Spoon-like at points, with less of the egalitarian Handsome Spoon sonic balance of the album even though it seemed that Boeckner took more lead vocal turns. They played the whole of Divine Fits with a couple of covers – The Wipers and Tom Petty – thrown in to round proceedings out to a full hour, with most songs remaining true to their recorded versions and letting the live arrangements make them into new things, energized and animated by sweat and rock’n'roll. If anyone was lukewarm on the record, the show would have made them believers and if they were already converted, it was nothing short of divine.
The National Post, Post City, and BlogTO were also at the show and have thoughts. Divine Fits are one of the music stories of the Fall, so it’s no surprise there’s feature pieces at – deep figurative breath – Spinner, NOW, JAM, Rolling Stone, The Line Of Best Fit, The National Post, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, and CBC Radio 3.
Modern Superstitions have released the first MP3 from their (presumably) self-titled debut album, due out October 23, and I’d say it augurs well.
Ex-Forest City Lover gone synthpop Kat Burns’ new project Kaska has released a video for the title track of her debut album Vichada, and will also play a hometown record release show for it on October 5 at The Drake, capping off a short run of Canadian shows. Dates and details available at Exclaim, and there’s an interview with Burns at Aside/Beside.
Video: Kashka – “Vichada”
The KW Record interviews Daniela Gesundheit of Snowblink about their new record Inner Classics, out tomorrow. They play the Bicycle Music Festival at Christie Pits on September 15 and have a record release show at The Music Gallery on September 27.