Highlights From the Jay-Z Afterparty
MY TRAIN FELL OFF THE TRACK
Dead Science + 31knots Glasshouse Gallery, Brooklyn October 27
Dead Science Download: "DrrrtyMagneto" [from the Frost Giant LP]
31knots Download: "Chain Reaction" [from the Talk Like Blood LP]
Goddamn does everything sound so important at Glasshouse--tin bears on the walls, broken mirrors glued up everywhere, ceiling-hung painted bikes, kids reading books about drugs while doing drugs, enough shit on the wall for ten Appleby's and fifteen Ruby Tues. Seattle's Dead Science, with gratitude to the audience for picking their show over Jay's, went about their mega-shit lyrics and Xiu-trad one-tempo drill, but in this house it all hit me like Slint's "Good Morning, Captain" first did--enormous and consequential, good theater, pained and deliberate.
Dude's got Jamie Stewart's delivery down squeal, but the twist, he's infatuated with Motown and bubblegum--a little more color, a little less scream. Focus on him, his mini-mohawk, and his creepy-crawler guitar work, but really the band's ace is they have the bass and drum men to get heavy, into that art-metal shit people who want to be "down with metal" say they really really like. They hold back though, too much--instead we get dudes avant-blowing into glass bottles like it's Herbie Hancock's fucking birthday.
Do people remember Faraquet? Care about them? The DC band had a math-rock record called View From This Tower a few years ago, with a song on it called "Cut Self Not" that may be the best air drumming song since that Buddy Rich drum solo mp3 floating around.
Anyway long ago I decided Faraquet had figured out the perfect balance between the herky-jerk crazy meter rhythm stuff and straight-up rock--they knew how to play off one to heighten the other, plus the singer had a killer voice and the guitarists distrusted bar chords like the shams they are. Faraquet always bordered on over-technical un-fun, but really that's like every other band trying to smarten up punk a/k/a prog the shit out of it.
31knots come from Portland, know the drill, understand what they're up against in this game--Faraquet in any number of ways. The trio saunters up and down the scales with a vaguely classical air about them, often against more guitar loops they trigger off an iPod, and always against sparse but more pronounced drumming (i.e. no time-keeping, more "playing drums like an instrument" if you feel that). A lot of the fretboard tapping-type numbers ("Half Life in Two Movements," "Darling, I") come out like video game music approximations, so I guess they have that going for them too.
Of course, then the lead singer decides to make it a "real rock show" or something, starts climbing on ladders, jackknifing over his sampler rig, and then--oh fucking boy--makes his way into the crowd and smacks the back of his guitar into my head. Then on the way back he slams me against a pole and breaks my glasses--then steps on my schoolbag with my laptop inside. Then he goes back to his boys and starts jumping in place because he's so fucking into it isn't he. I mean I have no idea. I'm trying to get my left lens back into the frames.
Which is the problem with all bands like this. All it takes is a smack in the head to realize (a) maybe the syncopation's just a diversion from the fact they haven't written a good fucking vocal melody their entire career, (b) maybe they tap fretboards because they can't play picked licks, (c) maybe the drummer goes rubato because he finds it easier than playing straight eighths. Maybe these motherfuckers are taking the piss--I mean their iPod's a mini.
But let's be professional about this. "We Still Have Legs" is prime mathy Dischord material and the melody holds together the nutso shit around it, national anthem at a baseball game. The band's new material raises the stakes on smart-rock that rocks often pretty considerably, and the lead knot could well be on his way to audience confrontation that goes beyond the time-tested jump into the crowd or mother-approved speaker climb. Hey, maybe he'll bring a gun next time. Maybe he'll shoot somebody. Maybe he'll wear really baggy pants.
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