Looper with the Flaming Lips

Thursday, March 16; Firehouse

An itsy segment of the St. Louis music world is going gaga over the prospect of Looper opening for the more popular Flaming Lips. Looper includes of a former member of (Oh. My. God.) Belle & Sebastian, the Scottish quintet whose 1997 album If You're Feeling Sinister barreled like a runaway train through the worldwide hipster-rock community. The album, its follow-up and the recently reissued debut combine to recall the more subdued moments of the Smiths with a touch of the Fairport Convention, toss in some wonderful grad-school lyrical gymnastics and surround the whole thang with a mysterious aura. Who are these people? Why is their music so magnetic? After all, it's just folk-rock.

B&S's magic succeeded because of the band's knack for writing itsy little song-stories and knotting them in gorgeous melodies; characters, settings and narrative arcs swept you away, then dumped you out the tail end like a water slide, leaving you refreshed and better for the ride.

But Stuart David, who's responsible for one of B&S's best songs, "A Century of Elvis," is no doubt sick of the whole obsessiveness; he recently left that band to devote his full energy to Looper, the project he shares with his wife, visual artist Karn David, and Ronnie Black. Looper, at least musically, sounds little like B&S. Whereas B&S ditched electronic sounds after their debut, Looper embraces the sounds, cuddles with them, pets them and tosses them treats every now and then; their babying pays off with beautiful sounds -- soft Casio tones, gentle breakbeats, pumping typewriters, an occasional flute and meandering musical theatrics. These serve as a bed for Stuart David's song-stories; he talks through songs as often as he sings through them (think the Velvet Underground's "The Gift"), and often it's tough to follow the narratives because the melodies are so sweet. Just as you're getting to a story hook, a melody steals your attention away. Get to the show early.

 
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