Ages and ages ago, I went to check out These Are Powers at the Vice Magazine party at Glasslands, and I meant to run a review, but then totally forgot. Better late than never, right?
Somewhere, someone must have amassed a huge amount of scientific data on all the shit hipsters love. Then, this genius ran all that information through a complex algorithm, and the result was These Are Powers. It's the pure distillation of all hipster trash and of course, the kids are crazy for it. The band takes edgy elements of hip-hop and makes them less scary to a white, suburban-born audience by, you know, not being hip-hop. Throw in some unrefined noise rock and crank up the bass so you can only really hear the beat, and you've got yourself a recipe for success.
And the band has an image to match - hipster-adored stereotypes all. Aspiring Bohemian Anna Barie comes clad in vintage clothes and an asymmetrical, arty haircut, while drummer Bill Salas is "urban" without being threatening. And Barie seemed obsessed with seeing exactly how many times she could mention Williamsburg between songs. The answer is, a lot.
These Are Powers (photo by Maxyme G. Delisle)
According to the band's wikipedia page, they use "polyrhythm," but from what I heard, I'd have to contest that claim. Three on two is hardly a polyrhythm, and I didn't hear the band attempt anything more complex than that. And believe me, I'm very tuned in to rhythms.
That said, Salas is an exceptional drummer. His skills, spread over a large, part-acoustic, part-electro set-up, are very impressive indeed. Such high-speed playing and sick, heavy beats aren't so easy to come by. Founder Pat Noecker's bass playing is strong, but he seems to get in his own way - keeping the beat going, keeping the crowds' heads bobbing, seems to smother more interesting inclinations. Barie's playing, on the other hand, looked like stabs in the dark to me (and I was standing quite close to her) so I almost think her instruments are more for show than for sound. She's a fine singer, though, with a strong (but not melodious) voice.
As bilious as this review sounds, I honestly salute the band for playing the game this well - if I could create the ultimate hipster algorithm and make a lot of money off of it, I totally would, so how can I blame them for figuring out the formula before I had a chance? The performance may be affected and frankly, void of musical merit (drumming aside), but they are technically proficient and they also get some points for originality - they really don't sound like anyone else on earth. And their pogo-ing and headbanging enthusiasm on stage is admirable and really gets the party mood going.
Personally, I will be avoiding this band in the future at just about any cost. But if kids are having fun listening and dancing, well then, more power(s) to them!