Monday, April 20, 2009

Live: Sisters, Pants Yell!

When: 4/11
Where: Dead Herring

Although I mainly went to the show at Dead Herring last week to check out Knight School, I managed to miss their entire set. That was partly because my friend and I got lost on the way. We thought we knew where the venue was, and ended up walking into the apartment of an elderly woman, who just stared at us from her couch. True story.

Once we found the right place, Knight School was already packing up their gear and the mysterious Sisters was taking the stage. Sisters is a two-man band that I've heard rumblings about but hadn't had a chance to check out yet. As it happens, I liked them even more than I thought I would. One of the privileged few members of the Death By Audio record label, Sisters have a certain amount of cred from that endorsement alone - before the existence of the label, the DBA family gave rise to two of NYC's best bands of the 2000's, A Place to Bury Strangers and Dirty on Purpose. That's gotta count for something.

Sisters (photo from

The two play primal noise pop with good-enough (though not exceptional) melodies and solid, tightly-constructed songs. The lo-fi guitar noise and unpolished vocals are delightfully rough, and the stripped down drumming on a stripped down drumset keeps everything down to earth. Sisters are clearly performers, even augmenting their set with a little light show that included the old Butthole Surfers' trick of tucking a strobe light under a floor tom. The lighting effects were on a small enough scale that they didn't distract or overpower the music, just added visual amplification of whatever was going on sonically.

Sisters isn't one of those bands that's great because it is doing something new. It's one of those bands that's great because it's boiled down something great to its essence - Sisters is the epitome of minimalist noise pop. If that's your kind of thing, Sisters are bound to satisfy. [MySpace]

Unfortunately, it will be hard for me to review The Pants Yell! objectively, because throughout their set, my attention was constantly being drawn away from the band by some very ill-mannered audience members - you know, the type who are there for the scene but couldn't give a fuck about the music, so they shout over it the whole time. Plus a few people of the type who didn't get enough attention from mom and dad so they have to try to take attention away from the performing band by cutting up. These individuals were only a small minority of the audience, but unfortunately, I managed to place myself right in their central headquarters. In any case, I digress.

I always find myself a little disappointed by Pants Yell! Their sound is a little too spare-yet-not-gritty for my particular tastes. For a band so highly touted in the pop world, I also find their melodies surprisingly unmemorable. But they aren't a bad listen. Drummer Casey Keenan, who appears to be the only member of the band with any training or proper technique, anchors the band well so the other two can carry out their understated pop mission without a stumble.

To my ears, the music's quiet undercurrent of sadness only dampens its songwriting, but there's inevitably something rewarding about hearing a band this earnest lay it all out there. If you don't need the grungy roar of distorted guitars or the syrupy elation of uptempo melodies, this band may be for you. If you do need those things, though, Pants Yell! can be a bore, and it isn't quite my cup of tea. [MySpace]

No comments: