Monday, December 10, 2007

The Week in Rock -- Or, Local Bands I've Seen This Week

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2007 at 8:00 AM

So, I go out. A lot. And lately, I've been out to see a lot of local bands. Some thoughts, for a captive blog audience.

*Last Wednesday, I went to Cicero's to check out Target Market, Say Panther and Berlin Whale. (Sorry, Tree Heart Orchestra; I had to work late.)

Say Panther continues to impress; I know they're in the process of recording an album (finally!), which made a difference: The band's sweet indie-rock was less shambling, without losing its winsome edge; more important, it sounded more focused and much more confident. Hints of New Order and Arcade Fire still existed, but it was harder to discern the band's influences; Say Panther just created quality, solid, danceable, fun music.

Indie-dance post-punks Berlin Whale recently went through a fairly significant line-up change and had to replace its entire rhythm section. The revamped quartet hasn't played a lot of shows out with this new line-up, and it showed: Things just felt off-kilter during the older songs -- the old members and the new members didn't coalesce or lock into place -- and the few new songs sounded more like rough practices. (Some equipment failure during the set also didn't help matters.) I'd like to see the band practice more -- and a lot -- and come back out next year after they've been together for awhile.

Last but not least, Target Market. It's also down to a four-piece, and has all but abandoned the music it released on last year's No Thrills. (Boo!) But while the band has lost its manic, frantic edge, it's also written some well-crafted, guitar-driven new songs that are indebted to the Strokes and Velvet Underground -- without sounding too garage-y, lo-fi or wimpy. (Heck, a few tunes even echoed the forceful throttling of the Clash and the emo sweetness of Jimmy Eat World, to my ears.)

*Friday night, I went to Lemmons for one of the Bert Dax Christmas shows. (After taking a delightful disco nap and going out with mad bedhead.) The sound was sort of flat at the club; Stella Mora's drums sounded like they were in another room, and I didn't need earplugs for the band's swirls of reverb -- a first, as the band is usually loud. This made for somewhat of a less-dynamic show -- and for a band that excels at subtlety, this was a bummer. Still, Stella Mora's dual female harmonies floated rather nicely and in perfect sync, and I'm interested in hearing how they sound at the Pageant this Saturday, opening the Point's second Ho Ho Show.

(SEGUE: The Point was doing a Wayback Weekend, and on the way to the show I heard Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage," Reel Big Fish's "Sell Out" and Nirvana's "Breed." Um, more of that all the time, please.)

Tape Deck Sonata live left something to be desired. While I very much enjoyed its Bert Dax song, the band didn't distinguish itself from countless other bar bands that prowl around south city; touchstones included watered-down Pavement.

I was pleased to hear that the Museum Mutters had improved greatly since the last time I saw the trio. The band is still extremely Replacements-y -- quite melancholy, cry-in-your-whiskey-type jangle-bar-band -- but wasn't sloppy or ragged (or polished, for that matter). The band's MySpace has a few new tunes posted; go check 'em out.

*Saturday, I first hit the Gargoyle to see VHS or Beta/So Many Dynamos. As expected, the atmosphere was much more subdued than the last big event there, Girl Talk show. Security wasn't letting people up the ramp that runs to the left of the stage, and there was definitely an increased B&D presence inside and outside the venue. (I heard rumors of security inspecting water bottles, but I didn't see that first-hand.) The Gargoyle staff wasn't selling water or popsicles, as during past shows; patrons had to make do with the vending machines outside.

So Many Dynamos -- despite slight sound problems -- sounded reliably good and looked and sounded like they were having fun. I don't think I've mentioned here, but the band's been playing a ton of new songs lately (including "Glaciers," the one whose lyrics are on their blog). The best, briefest description is that the songs are just bigger: more complex harmonies, more intricate guitar riffs, more keyboard wizardry. But still danceable and catchy.

Then I skipped over to Off Broadway for Jon Hardy and the Public. Talk about impressive: The suit-clad band was far and away the highlight of my week. A few have compared them to R&B post-punks Spoon, which is entirely accurate. But the group also echoes the power-pop of Nick Lowe, the lovelorn decadence of the Walkmen and even Elvis Costello's agit-punk-pop. (A cover of Lowe's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding" kind of summed it all up.) Danceable, smart and catchy, Jon Hardy should be a must-see for music lovers in town.

-- Annie Zaleski

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