SXSW 2009: The Perils of “Day Rock” with Obits, Handsome Furs, and American Analog Set


American Analog Set/Handsome Furs/Obits
Club De Ville
SXSW Friday Afternoon, March 20

“I think this is the first show where I haven’t been drunk in four years,” is how Handsome Fur Dan Boeckner puts it, his poor sentence construction a further sign of fatigue/sobriety/broad-daylight disorientation. Obits, a prominent SOTC crush, don’t have to say anything to get that feeling across: It’s 12:30 or so and they look half-dead, and the half that ain’t dead appears to be asleep. This does not render them ineffective. “Back and Forth” still kills, with an almost nursery-rhyme simplicity to its “Be My Baby” beat and surly-anthemic chorus. They’re not exactly over-emoting at the moment, but it’s nice to know the songs don’t necessarily need over-the-top aggression to get over. Back to bed with ye.

The Handsome Furs are way, way, way more energetic. I will sign off on Boeckner and wife Alexei Perry’s super-cute matrimonial dynamic being the main attraction here, but as a Wolf Parade devotee I find Dan the greater object of fascination: His chemically addled (or not) howl is a gruff and wondrous thing, the best aspects of both Bruce Springsteen and Neil Diamond, sounding even edgier when he hasn’t had time yet to take the edge off.

But the main attraction for me here, evident in the vibraphone lurking near the stage, is Austin’s own American Analog Set, an extraordinarily sedate, recently dormant sad-bastard-rock institution today reprising 1999’s The Golden Band in its entirety. (Odd choice: From Our Living Room to Yours seems to be the consensus favorite; I’m still in thrall to their 2005 swan song Set Free.) Andrew Kenny’s tentative, breathy vocals are soft to the point of inaudible; the quintet’s cumulative effect, vibes and Rickenbacker bass and all, is extraordinarily sedate. “It’s All About Us” builds slowly and inexorably, but even its long instrumental climax is constantly in danger of being drowned out by the din from the band next door. It’s great, but it feels as though we should all be lying down. On this point I think we can all agree.