When: April 29
Where: Silent Barn
Another very tardy live review (and now several days more tardy thanks to Blogger's disappearing act last week). There was a showcase of sorts for Shellshag's Starcleaner Records at Silent Barn a couple of weeks ago. Shellshag canceled their own set at the last minute, but the rest of the bands were plenty to carry the show.
Landlords had played energetic punk that was just a bit country-influenced. Honestly, I don't have that much to say about it (I know!). It was very enjoyable.
Future Virgins were even better. They started their set at full tilt and hit that perfect balance of hardcore and pop (perfect balance is not the same as an equal balance - they are way more hardcore than pop). They were tight, they were aggressive and they were fun. This is one of the best punk bands I've seen in a long time. They're fairly traditional, but they've got their own voice
Of course, the highlight of the night was Songs for Moms, a trio of ladies from California. They've got this feminist cow punk thing going on that, while maybe not musically revolutionary, sounds very fresh. There is a country twang in all of their songs, but the cues they take from country are the genre's greatest strengths, often overlooked by rockists who like "everything except country." Country music has a long history of powerful women with powerful voices and it's an appropriate reference point for the tough wail of SFM's two frontwomen.
The band is more punk than country, though. Their songs are loud, aggressive and often shouted. There's a lot of anger in their music (several songs are about the band's personal experiences with rape and sexual assault) but also a lot of compassion and depth. Their lyrics on their album We Used To Believe In the West are some of the best I've heard in recent years - courageous, personal, insightful, simple yet oblique enough to leave them open to interpretation.
The band is tight. Although their music is purposefully simple - SFM don't need any trickery - their arrangements are deceptively difficult. The band has an exceptional ear for songwriting and arrangement, with instruments dropping in and out, answering back to the vocals, breaking into split seconds of silence, cutting or doubling tempos and cutting through some breakneck licks without ever making a big deal of it. Their melodies are also consistently excellent, very catchy but still interesting.
My only disappointment with the show is just that the band didn't play many songs off We Used to Believe. I love that album and there's not a song on there I wouldn't like to hear live. But the band hit a few of them and their other songs, both older and newer, were of equal caliber.
Songs For Moms aren't cutting edge in sonic experimentation or anything like that - that's not what they're about. They're about seeing how they can carve a space for a new voice using traditional country and punk frameworks. And while they aren't off exploring music's frontiers, they don't sound quite like anyone else I've ever heard. They are a group of rare talent and rare heart. [myspace]