Les Georges Leningrad
After the miserable amorphous muck of some feeble neo-shoegaze openers appropriately named Coma (why oh why did someone think it was a good idea to revive that genre?), French-Canadian synth-punksters Les Georges Leningrad brutally rocked Northsix, armed with nothing but a cheap Korg and a drum kit with “BOBO” scrawled on it in red letters. Their stage setup also included one giant deer and two trees, all crafted from painted cardboard. It might’ve suggested a pastoral Animal Collective scene—gentle Bambi frolicking through the leafy forest—but the deer had an angry, steely glint in its eyes, and a pissed-off owl perched on one of the trees, ready to strike.
The band, too, looked poised to attack. Lead vocalist Poney P. adorably wore a red-and-black polka-dotted dress with red ruffles, white heels, and a très chic white beret. She bore an uncanny resemblance to Maria Callas, but her terrifying bilingual yelps and funkily raunchy dance moves were more like some unholy fusion of James Chance and Salt ‘N Pepa. Drummer Bobo Boutin sported hideous amounts of eye makeup and a black skull and crossbones painted on his stomach. Keyboardist Mingo L’Indien donned white scrubs that looked stolen earlier that day from a mental ward, and what appeared to be a Mexican wrestler mask (in red and black, presumably to match Ms. P.). Spotted in the adoring Northsix crowd: members of Le Tigre, in town to support the Pixies.
The trio raced through most of the songs from their new Sur le Traces Black Eskimo—a volatile mix of frenetic and incomprehensible disco bangers, organ dirges, noise freak-outs, and hilariously ham-fisted stabs at musique concrète. Their eerie, distorted keyboard sounds would bring to mind Suicide, if Suicide were ever funny and had more than three good songs. After every band member switched places—each losing at least one article of clothing in the process—and held an impromptu arm-wrestling match, the band ended triumphantly, with Poney P. yelling in charmingly broken English: “Thank you . . . New York! Thank you . . . Rolling Rock?”
Canadian synth-poppers sedately uncelebrate Hanukkah
I don’t know what kind of Jew-y shit they wanted me to do,” senior Junior Boy Jeremy Greenspan told a roomful of holiday hipsters at Joe’s Pub. The performance by Greenspan’s way-hyped Canadian electropop duo had been billed by Joe’s as a Sixth Night of Hanukkah celebration, and the soft-spoken singer was taking no such responsibility for it. “Being a Jew in New York isn’t so exotic,” he admitted, stressing the relative uniqueness of his lineage at home, where he breaks metaphorical bread with William Shatner and Geddy Lee.
So instead of a history lesson, the Junior Boys—Greenspan on vocals, bass, and guitar; partner Matt Didemus on keyboards; Apple laptop on meteorological slide show and canned beats—zipped through an enjoyable if unenlightening set, which Greenspan announced was the band’s first headlining show in town. The music was great. Last Exit, their debut, is still revealing hidden depths more than a year after fans started blogging one-handedly about the singles that anchor it: the delicate dance between Greenspan’s airy singing and the deceptively funky rhythms; the mini-marshmallow melodies; the glittering jewel-box production filigree that redeems the casual solipsism of iTunes-ing through headphones. And Greenspan’s witty lyrics, which redeem the concentrated solipsism of redeeming casual solipsism: “You’ve gone and left me on my own,” he sings over oven-mitted bass in “Birthday.” “It’s not so bad to stay at home.”
But the inevitable by-product of the JBs’ gorgeous text-message soul is the expectation of presence—a stylish grace simply not conjured by Greenspan’s rumpled American Eagle sweater or Didemus’s careful keyboard manipulation. Last Exit sounds like making out on a monorail, yet onstage at Joe’s the band looked like college-radio DJs after a long night spent faxing in CMJ playlists. (Shit, I probably do, too, which is why I couldn’t help wincing when the trucker-hatted indie kids in front pushed their tables aside and started grinding with Stella Artois in hand.) Part of the point of homemade electropop is making it in your bathrobe, of course. But you can’t bust out a sweet sax solo like the Boys do in “When I’m Not Around” without igniting a myth. Mikael Wood