TUCSON LIVE MUSIC SPACE
Sunday, Nov. 3
In rock music, there are song bands and there are sound bands. The Beatles and The Clash were song bands. They adapted their overall approach to accommodate whatever style they were attempting or experimenting with. Sound bands, like Kraftwerk or Sonic Youth, fit their compositions into their instantly recognizable style. Free Machines fits into the latter category. That's not to say the quartet don't have great songs, because they do. But the impression they leave (mostly in the skull) is one of overwhelming volume and simplicity to the point of hearing notes that may or may not be there. This is a technique used by avant-garde composer La Monte Young, but Free Machines aren't particularly arty. Their music is violence; every instrument is pushed to its limits, including guitarist Cameron Combs' this-ain't-Roger-McGuinn's-12-string sonic destruction.
In certain respects, Free Machines come closest to the spirit of the original '60s garage bands like Count Five that many current groups ape. They take gloriously primitive structures and exaggerate them, either by speeding up a song to an incomprehensible velocity, piling on the noise until delirium ensues, or both. In short, Free Machines is challenging and amazing.
Peach Kelli Pop, originally from Ottawa, Canada, but now based in California, plays the kind of pop-punk that Blink-182 wouldn't even know existed. An all-female foursome rooted in both '60s girl-groups and '70s Irish punks The Undertones, they delivered song after song of pogoing beats and the kind of rushing melodies that are instantly unforgettable. Frontwoman Allie Hanlon possessed unstoppable energy and a wildly infectious presence, as did the rest of the band, particularly the insanely fast and fantastic drummer. Peach Kelli Pop played anthems of empowerment and celebration, but they were phenomenally fun and exciting, and almost a sunny flipside to Free Machines' death rattles.
Tucson's Hip Don't Dance were less immediate, but more intimate, than their predecessors of Peach Kelli Pop and Free Machines. They have a dynamic, muscular style grounded in some of the greatest indie-rock of the last few decades. Their singer had a charmingly charismatic personality with a voice to match. On rare occasions, the band's cutesy-ness left me wondering where the Bright Eyes begin and The Pixies end in their master plan. But more often than not, Hip Don't Dance achieved greatness on their music alone.