Review: Pretty & Nice, Title Tracks, Jumbling Towers and Loza at the Firebird, Saturday, February 20

Hey, St. Louis, the next time the local band you came to see tells you to stick around for the following acts, take heed. You wouldn't want another poor display like last night, when most of you left the Firebird after Jumbling Towers finished its set. You also wouldn't want to miss sets as punchy and fun as the ones that Title Tracks and Pretty & Nice played.

Left with a loyal front row of eight or so fans and a handful of people that could not have numbered over thirty, Pretty & Nice ripped into the spiky "Grab Your Nets" and never looked back. Resembling Devo and early XTC with a dose of falsetto, the band's tunes are the musical equivalent of Pixy Stix: blasts of sugary goodness that are over in a rush. So it made sense that Pretty & Nice kept the pauses to a minimum and kept the pace brisk. This made the band's ability to put each interlocking chord, riff and sparse drumbeat in its place that much more impressive. Despite the hundreds of hooks in each song, they managed to make every performance seamless and focused. The only exception came early in the show when Jeremy Mendicino abruptly switched guitars mid-song during "Hideaway Tokyo."

Simpler but no less effective were co-headliners Title Tracks. The solo project of former Q and not U drummer John Davis, Title Tracks continues in the power pop vein of his recent Georgie James project. Armed with a crack band, Davis fired off a snappy set of songs that would meet the approval of any '60s/'70s rock connoisseur. Often coming off like a stripped-down New Pornographers, the band churned through a short performance that featured tight chemistry between the players; the group replicated the record just about perfectly. Andrew Black in particular shined on the drums with a forceful attack and crisp, effective fills. Like a lot of power pop, Title Tracks' songs can blur together at times, but with musicianship and songwriting this professional, it's tough to complain.

Jumbling Towers showed that they have regained their stride since returning from its hiatus with a solid, if predictable performance. The quartet's mix of spooky yet tuneful keyboards, surf guitars and haughty vocals continue to satisfy, and yesterday's show found the group playing its best songs in fine form. The only problem is that they have been playing these same songs for some time while ignoring other worthy pieces in their oeuvre.

New local act Loza opened the night with moody, reverb-drenched music that crawled by at a snail's pace. The trio featured a clean attack that was sonically impressive but left a bit to be desired on the songwriting side. Loza was successful in creating a relaxed atmosphere, but its songs often dragged. It didn't help that they ran into technical difficulties with their keyboards. Fortunately, set-closer "Summer" picked up the pace and ended their show on a high note.

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