Thursday, November 19, 2009

Live: Coyote Eyes, Mary Onettes + Art of Shooting, Midnight Spin

When: 11/8/09
Where: Mercury Lounge

So my longtime obsession Werewolves cancelled their Mercury Lounge show opening for the Mary Onettes. Their replacement was a band called Midnight Spin. I knew as soon as I walked in the room what kind of music it was going to be. Really young guys, nice guitars, drummer with long hair and no getting the picture?

I don't really know how to review a band like that without being extremely patronizing, so I'm gonna be pretty patronizing. It's just that rock'n'roll bands full of enthusiastic young men always make me nostalgic for the guys I knew in high school who dreamed of major label record deals and some huge arena full of shrieking, scantily clad young women. But come to think of it, is that any worse than what we're hoping for now? Ultracool indie label deals and DIY clubs full of good-looking hipsters.

Granted, most indie bands try to be (or at least to appear) somewhat arty and original. Midnight Spin is the opposite of original - they are a living cliche. But there is a reason cliches exist, after all. People have fun making this kind of music and many more people have fun listening to it. It's not in my taste, but at least they aren't pretentious or fake.

Still, I don't think Midnight Spin is gonna make the cut, at least not any time soon. Their songs were fine and they played well. They were clearly well-rehearsed and probably had some formal training not only in playing but also in music theory or composition. But they aren't above average, let alone outstanding. They just don't have what it takes to move beyond bar-band status.

Coyote Eyes were the real highlight of the show. I've been drooling over their arty post-punk for months now and catch them almost every chance I get. But it had been a while this time around, and their set had changed significantly. Most immediately, they've gotten more mellow. Their newer songs were mostly slower and more meandering than the first songs I heard by the band. On the one hand, this adds a lot of variety and maturity to the set and opens up a lot of space for experimentation. On the other, the music lost a lot of punch and the band struggled to get the full attention of the audience - no more than most bands struggle, but more than a band this good should.

The band has yet to properly balance their vocals between bassist Marta DeLeon and guitarist Manny Nomikos. DeLeon's voice is rich, melodic and mostly in tune (which I don't mean as cheap shot at anyone, it's just not that common in indie music). In contrast, Nomikos has a thinner voice and doesn't concern himself with hitting the right pitch. That's a perfectly legitimate aesthetic and the juxtaposition of the two voices could be a powerful tool. Sometimes it is, but too often, the difference is just jarring and the two styles fail to find a common ground. Until they figure out and agree upon their musical identity with regards to vocals, DeLeon and Nomikos risk clashing, not complementing.

Once again, when the band hit the song "Yellow Red" near the end of the set, they had the audience captivated. If they could get that rapt attention from the beginning, they'd make quite an impact. I'd like to see the band start their sets with something more aggressive. Their unconventional pop, with its outstanding rhythms, noisy sonic experiments and curiously infectious melodies, should have their audience transfixed from the first note. Just got to make that first note impossible to ignore. [MySpace]

The Art of Shooting played next and I stepped out for most of their set. This band is just too weird, and not in a good way. There are two women singing in front, very dramatically, and some semi-spacey instruments in the background. Basically, if Blondie and Spacemen 3 had a bastard child, it would look and sound like this - but not in a good way. Maybe they get some novelty points, and guitarist Gavin Dunaway sounds like a young Billy Corgan, but the awkwardness far outweighs any appeal. [MySpace]

Last up were the headlining Swedes The Mary Onettes. I've seen them before and found them enjoyable but unremarkable, an 80's rock throwback. However, their new album has generated a lot of positive press, so I thought I'd give them another chance.

Lyrically, the band has come a long way. It takes some courage for Philip Ekstrom to sing about his aging body, and I admire him for that. Facing the fact that your youth is gone, and admitting that that breaks your heart, it's interesting if a little melodramatic.

However, musically, the band is still an 80's rock throwback. And that's that. I wouldn't avoid them, but I wouldn't seek them out, when there's more exciting things happening all over the place. [MySpace]

No comments: