Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
Parts & Labor, Ten Kens, Peter Project and Radius & Helena at Sneaky Dee's in Toronto
Frank YangI’m not even kidding when I say that a typical Friday night for me usually wraps up sound asleep before midnight. Rock’n'roll lifestyle indeed. But I had been quite looking forward to seeing Brooklyn’s Parts & Labor, what with their latest album Receivers growing on me more with each listen, so instead of being properly crashed out from the week that was last Friday, I was at Sneaky Dee’s taking in a full lineup of local acts before the headliner.
Kicking things off were Radius & Helena, who just released their debut Precious Metals. Their angular, art-rock was in the vein of Sonic Youth or late-era Radiohead, though without the genius of either act. I don’t mean this as a slight – you can be plenty smart without being a genius – but R&H could stand to hone the pop side of their equation. After all, their stylistic forebears are as highly regarded as they are because they were able to take their inventiveness and restlessness and still make it (mostly) wholly listenable. Radius & Helena mostly were, as well, but there were a few points where something especially interesting caught my ear and hinted that there were better things yet to come.
Gears couldn’t have shifted more than they did when Peter Project took the stage next. The one-man act set up behind a bank of television monitors displaying the performance and old TV shows, and armed with a turntable and sampling pad, proceeded to craft a set of jazzy, ’60s-retro hip-hop grooves. Mostly instrumental save for a couple of guest raps (pre-recorded), it was unexpected and really enjoyable, like a nice respite of lounging in a sea of loud rock.
Rock which returned with Ten Kens, whom I’ve been curious about since hearing they’d signed to Fat Cat and were thus labelmates with the likes of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit. And now, having seen and heard them, all I can say is that the label has much better talent scouts in Scotland than they do in Canada. Recalling ’90s post-grunge alt-rock when heavy guitars and angsty vocals were enough to build a career, they failed to deliver anything remotely engaging. They did apologize at the end of their set for some undetermined technical difficulties, so maybe their self-titled debut is more interesting, but I’ve no real interest in finding that out.
And finally, after long last and on the wrong side of 1AM, came Parts & Labor. And while they played one of the shortest sets of the night – maybe 35 minutes, tops – it was worth the wait. First, I’d like to go back to my review of Receivers and apologize to current drummer Joe Wong for suggesting that he wasn’t fully able to step into the shoes of departed drummer Christopher Weingarten. Wong’s live work was simply devastating. Pulverizing, precise and loud as fuck. It was great. And over top the din, his bandmates managed to recreate the dense sonics of Receivers and its predecessor Mapmaker, maintaining their frantic energy yet with most every detail and melody coming across loud and clear. Intense and awesome, and invigorating enough to get me back home, where I proceeded to sleep for the next nine and a half hours. Yessir.
The New Haven Register talks to Parts & Labor’s B.J. Warshaw about the bands shift towards the melodic over the last couple records.
Photos: Parts & Labor, Ten Kens, Peter Project, Radius & Helena @ Sneaky Dee’s – November 21, 2008
MP3: Parts & Labor – “Nowhere’s Nigh”
MP3: Parts & Labor – “Fractured Skies”
MP3: Parts & Labor – “A Great Divide”
MP3: Ten Kens – “Bearfight”
MP3: Peter Project – “Repetitive Stress Injury”
MP3: Radius & Helena – “What Gets In The Way Of Love”
MP3: Radius & Helena – “Commodore”
MP3: Radius & Helena – “The Thin Man”
Video: Parts & Labor – “The Gold We’re Digging”
Video: Ten Kens – “Bearfight”
Video: Ten Kens – “Y’all Come Back Now”
Video: Radius & Helena – “Commodore”
MySpace: Parts & Labor
MySpace: Ten Kens
MySpace: Radius & Helena
I didn’t really count their gig opening up for Broken Social Scene this Thursday as a proper make-up for the cancelled show at the end of September, so I’m glad to see that Land Of Talk have scheduled a show at the Horseshoe for January 15, tickets $10. Also on the bill, Zeroes and Little Scream.
I missed The Submarines the last time they came to town in May on account of my being in Europe at the time. And while I can’t totally predict what I’ll be doing in three months time, being at the Drake Underground on February 15 to see their return engagement seems like a fairly safe bet. Tickets for that show are $10.50.
Aquarium Drunkard has a release date for volume one of Neil Young’s Archives. If the information is accurate and doesn’t change (as it has countless times already), the ten-disc set (DVD or Blu-Ray) will be available on January 27 of next year and run you in the ballpark of $350 or $450, depending on which format you prefer. Yeah. Neil is at the Air Canada Centre next Thursday and Friday, December 4 and 5.