HEAVY DUTYWhen NYC neo-'80s rock revivalists Interpol released their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, in 2002, fans and critics were largely split into two camps: those who fawned over the band's Joy Division-meets-The Strokes exuberantly melancholic strums and croons, and those who dismissed them as being simply the sum of their influences and not much more.
Those who fell into the latter category should probably stay far away from Elefant, who come off like the sum of Interpol's influences, albeit with a healthy Morrissey and Cure fixation figured in. Add some "ba-ba-bah"s, some '80s guitar jangle and a reverence for goth, by way of Argentinian-born singer Diego Garcia's not-annoying, romantic monotone, and you've pretty much got Elefant's sound locked down.
But, just as with Interpol, a mere tallying of Elefant's obvious influences sells the band short, for it's the songs that matter in the end, and Elefant can write them. Pretty much every lyric on the band's 2003 debut LP, Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid (Kemado), hits on a romantic sense of longing (even if they're occasionally slightly self-aware), and is there anything else in any self-respecting goth's world, after all?
Take the single, "Bokkie," which opens with the lines, "Jumping with your eyes closed / landing on the sun / Being young and beautiful / in love with no one / but yourself." But of course, like an obedient romantic, Garcia wants what he can't have--and here's where the self-awareness comes in: "She was standing beneath the chandelier / I offered her chocolate and some beer / She said no, I said why, she said no, I said why / And stayed dancing alone." The song is, believe it or not, one of the most upbeat on the album--in the end, he gets the disaffected girl, after all--but it provides a trustworthy template for what's being offered here. The reason it works, faux-Brit foppishness and all, is that the songs are memorable. And who can argue with something you can hum on your way home from the show?
On their sophomore album, Heart (2003, Arts & Crafts), tourmates Stars specialize in melancholic character studies braced by pastoral electronica. Comprising singer Torquil Campbell, singer/guitarist Amy Millan, keyboardist/programmer Chris Seligman and guitarist/bassist Evan Cranley (Millan and Cranley moonlight in the wonderfully eclectic Broken Social Scene, whose best song, "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl," is sung by Millan), the quartet remind of The Postal Service's more down-tempo moments--Campbell's vocal timbre even echoes Ben Gibbard's--or a 21st Century Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. In a word, gorgeous.
Elefant and Stars perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, March 13. The Dears open at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $7. For more information, call 798-1298.
LORD HAVE MERCYMary Lou Lord is known for being many things: one of the world's most famous buskers, arch-nemesis to Courtney Love, and an expert at selecting world-class songs to interpret by the far-ranging likes of Elliott Smith, Big Star, The Pogues, Bob Dylan and The Bevis Frond. But following a handful of singles and EPs, by the time she got around to releasing her 1998 debut full-length, Got No Shadow (Sony), she had also become a decent songwriter, writing a trio of tunes on her own and collaborating on several others with The Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman, who also wrote the remaining bulk of material alone.
Since that album's release, Lord released a live collection, Live City Sounds (2001, Rubric), and took time out to have a baby. Earlier this week, Lord dropped Baby Blue (Rubric), her first studio album in six years, which reprises the formula of Got No Shadow, comprising a couple of covers (Badfinger's title track, Pink Floyd's "Fearless"), one self-penned composition, a pair of collaborations with Saloman and the rest newly-written Saloman tunes. And where Got ... bulked up her sound with a full band, instead of her previous acoustic guitar-and-voice set-up, Baby Blue continues that tradition, enlisting Saloman as guitarist in her band.
Lord's small, sweet voice was never one to send shivers up your spine, but she's smart enough to know her strengths and weaknesses, as does Saloman, who writes songs for her that play to the former. "Cold Kilburn Rain" is a low-key, countryish pastoral, while the melody, picking, and double-tracked vocals of "Farming It Out" sound straight from the Elliott Smith songwriting textbook. Aided and abetted by Matt Kelly's violin and mandolin playing, the sing-songy "Old Tin Tray" is a pretty little gem. Even "The Inhibition Twist," a stab at a driving, electric guitar-heavy rock song, while a bit disconcerting at first, grows more comfortable after a few listens. Praise the Lord, indeed.
Mary Lou Lord performs at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Sunday, March 14. Gingersol (see Rhythm & Views, page 74) and The Bellyachers open at 9 p.m. Cover is $6. For further details, call 622-8848.
Q: ARE WE NOT DEVO? A: WE ARE POLYSICS!With a sticker on the front of their latest album, Neu (2003, Asian Man), that informs us that the disc is for fans of Devo and Kraftwerk, Japan's Polysics at least make no bones about their influences. The problem is, while Devo is all over this sucker, you'd be hard-pressed to find a modicum of Krautrock anywhere on Neu (whose title itself is a reference to the German band of the same name). What you will find is Devo's new-wave aesthetic, by way of abrasive, angular spazz-rock, flourished with Atari 2600 game sounds and noise-guitar torrents, plus hints of Bis and The Fall, all filtered through a wacky Japanese prism. The band's members have taken the Devo adulation and emulation one step further by wearing matching "futuristic" jumpsuits and calling themselves Poly-1, Poly-2, Poly-3 and Poly-4; in other words, expect a show.
Polysics perform on Friday, March 12 at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. Openers Peachcake and bark, bark, bark kick things off at 9 p.m. Admission to this all-ages show is $8. Questions? Call 884-0874.
FLY BY NIGHTFor the second time in two months, Northern California's Low Flying Owls hit Tucson in support of their second album, Elixir Vitae (2003, Stinky). The band trades in wah-wah-friendly drone rock but douses it with elements of British shoegazer, Detroit garage rock and Cali psych-pop. More dynamic than most bands of their ilk.
Opening this time around is San Francisco's Film School, who take their name seriously. Moody, cinematic atmosphere is the name of the game on AlwaysNever, the band's latest EP, released last year on Amazing Grease, the label owned by Scott Kannenberg (ex-Pavement, Preston School of Industry singer/guitarist). The album is full of languid soundscapes that take their time unfolding. Even when they do, they're somnabulent in the best sense of the word, slightly recalling a more textural Pavement with a belly full of 'ludes.
Low Flying Owls and Film School appear at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, March 12. The show begins at 9:30 p.m., and five bucks gets you in the door. Call 798-1298 for more info.
WHAT, NO POGUES?Unfortunately, St. Patrick's Day falls on a Wednesday this year, which doesn't make for very much fun at work the next day. Still, if you're looking for some authentic Irish music to go with your green beer (and frankly, we're just guessing they'll have green beer), look no further than UA mainstay O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave. They'll be featuring locals Round the House and Mollys founders Nancy McCallion and Catherine Zavala, performing traditional, contemporary and original Irish music, starting at 7 p.m. The event is open to families, and admission is $5 at the door. For more info, call 623-8600.
If you're not quite so orthodox about your revelry--that is, you want to get drunk and obnoxious but don't care much for traditional Irish music--head over to Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., where The Hillwilliams will be performing what singer/guitarist Scott Lema calls their "comeback" gig in the front lounge. Best of all, it's free. Need details? Call 798-1298.
Both events take place on Wednesday, March 17.