New York

New York Indie-Rock: Needs Work!


This is why I’m not a photographer

Knitting Factory
January 6, 2006

Maybe winter was the problem. Sunburst harmonies and relentless pep aren’t usually things we look for when we can see our breath. Or maybe it was the one piece of shit who waited for a quiet moment and shouted out “blowjobs!” five minutes into their half-hour set just so he could get a nervous titter from his douchebag friends (it’s kind of amazing that dudes like this still exist). Or it could’ve been the fact that they were playing second on a bill of four acts, opening up for the Supersystem, the band that released the most slept-on record of last year. Whatever it was, things weren’t looking good for Tralala. But if any band could overcome the early-evening spot and bored, apathetic crowd and its own visible drunkenness, you’d think it’d be this one, right?

Riff Raff has already riffed, but to recap: Tralala is a New York band with four female singers and three dudes playing music in the background. They coo dazzlingly bright girl-group pop over rudimentary indie-rock bash-and-strum, and they do it with verve and dedication and a total lack of self-consciousness. Just about everything about them (ecstatically amateurish harmonies, primary-color guitars, female-centered egalitarianism, hair-flipped grins) recalls a lost mid-90s sense of amped-up possibility, like they stepped out of a time capsule armed with pink lunchboxes and back-issues of Ben is Dead, or like my girlfriend Bridget genetically engineered them. People like to compare them to the Jesus and Mary Chain, and they do cover “Never Understand,” but they don’t have any of that band’s too-cool-for-school hazy detachment; they’re joltingly on all the time. Actually, they don’t remind me of anything so much as the Dance Hall Crashers minus the ska, and that is most certainly a good thing. So this show should’ve been no problem for them.

So it was a disappointment when the band didn’t come out with all guns blasting, doing backflips off each other’s heads and breathing fire with fireworks going off all around them. They stood just about motionless and sang at each other rather than at the crowd and busted out a couple of barely-there dance moves every once in a while. I probably shouldn’t have expected anything spectacular at such a low-key and uncomfortable setting. And it was nice to see the guys in the band so firmly in the background and the girls all completely distinct and different from each other, almost maybe sort of like an indie-rock Spice Girls (again, a good thing). But here’s the thing. Tralala has made one pretty great album, and it seems like they’ve got more to come. On record at least, they’re one of the best bands in the city, and the world needs them more than it needs Black Dice or CocoRosie or, like, Blood on the Wall (even though I like Blood on the Wall). But the outside world is never going to pay any attention unless Tralala figures out how to make the most of a shitty show like the one on Friday night. They need to find a way to shine even in the most mundane, boring settings. I hope they do.

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