Swing and a Miss


Strike one: It’s 4 a.m. on Tuesday, and all the neighborhood bars are closed. We buy beer and smokes at the bodega and head to the rooftop patio of our new acquaintances—really new, as my friend and I met the two of them on the sidewalk outside the last bar about 15 minutes ago. My friend is less concerned about her missing wallet now than she will be tomorrow when her company credit card’s theft protection is activated and she receives a phone call regarding a large purchase at a local drugstore. It goes without saying that neither of us is concerned about entering the home of two boys we’ve just met because, as I said, it’s 4 a.m. on a Tuesday, and all the neighborhood bars are closed.

The night had started early, at a Nolita cocktail party for Lacoste hosted by Pam Bristow and Matt Goias, the couple behind the Class Trip Corporation, in a humid restaurant full of fashionable strangers. Turns out that’s the actual recipe for sangria; in an hour, I’d racked up enough empties to fulfill the needs of a wedding registry. So by the time I’d made it back to Brooklyn to find myself in the current situation, seated around a table with four people who were pretty blitzed, I wasn’t surprised that the conversation wasn’t terribly animated. What I was surprised by was that it didn’t include my friend or me. These guys spent an hour arguing about what their hypothetical band should sound like—one they haven’t formed yet. I mean it, an hour of huddling over a laptop drawing references from Beach House to Suicide. And when I did pipe up to offer an opinion on Papercuts, I was met with this: “What are you, some kind of music snob?” Right. Seen and not heard. Forgot.

Strike two: Fuse Gallery is the in-house art space that inhabits the back room of Lit Lounge, the seedy East Village home of dirty style stars who make the trek from Williamsburg. Before last weekend, I’d only been to one other opening there—it was last September, for Cheryl Dunn, whom I sat next to at a dinner party a couple weeks before that and who seriously has the prettiest skin of all time. (She glows—no kidding.) Anyway, so I went on Saturday night for Nick Zinner’s show, It’s OK, Don’t Look at the Road, a collection of photos snapped while on tour with his band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Press information had promised “moments detached from context and free of rock n’ roll cliché,” and images that reflect “modest and sincere vignettes of life on the road.”

How, then, to explain stage shots of excitable crowds in Melbourne, Tokyo, and Munich? (And one less-than-excitable crowd in my beloved Kansas City, titled “Kansas Crowd.” It’s actually at a club in Missouri.) “I have become more fascinated with the ambiguity of an image,” Zinner is quoted as saying. “If you remove the facts and the dates and are just left with the image, that image to me is strongest, when each viewer can attach their own meaning to it.” But if you remove the facts and dates of these pics—what country they were taken in, what year, what performer was playing, whatever—the photograph’s audience still knows they’re looking at some band’s audience, and that given the audience members’ ages and styles of dress, etc., it’s probably a rock band. It’s probably in the last few years. They’re probably totally psyched to be there. That’s not exactly attaching my own meaning. That’s just kind of . . . obvious.

I’m not saying Zinner’s a shit photographer—he’s even published three books, the latest by St. Martin’s Press (I Hope You Are All Happy Now). Composition is good; color is interesting. I even like the bed series: 164 four-inch-by-six-inch shots of empty, slept-in beds—that actually does make me feel a little lonely, as I assume it can feel on the road. (It also makes me think about how easy it is to get someone to sleep in that big lonely bed with you when you’re a touring musician with a hot band.) But pretending to erase the context of being the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ bassist while presenting these photos? Rings a little false.

(It’s OK . . . runs through September 13; see for information.)

Strike three: Listening to (and liking) recordings but being disappointed by the live act is nothing groundbreaking, and too-early buzz has dashed the dreams of more than one band. But I can’t believe how bad Amazing Baby was at Union Pool last Saturday night.

Their moody, woozy space rock has merited copy in Spin and The Fader, and Mark Ronson featured the band on his East Village Radio show last month (download three of their songs at Additionally, while they’ve got to be sick to death of it, they also have the cachet of the summer: an MGMT connection (they’re buddies, and supposedly MGMT stole their drummer). But more than that, “Head Dress” is just a great song. “Pump Your Brakes” is good fun as well.

It comes down to this: If you want to play up your psych image live and be all weird onstage, by all means—you’re goddamn performers and it’s your right. But not if you can’t pull it off. Lose the pitchy back-up singers, who are darling but totally fuck with your sound. Spread out—you’re too close together, and it’s mangling those pretty guitar swells. And I know it isn’t fair, but your frontman is way too attractive to be that affected. Only sexy-uglies can get away with crouching at the mic while shaking a maraca, swatting the air to an invisible beat, and grinning maniacally in general. That’s just how it goes. Unless he wants to turn back into a frog, he’s gotta knock that shit off.

So, for this week at least, they’re out—I’m officially over band boys.