Live: Islands and, Yes, Das Racist at Bell House


Islands/Das Racist
Bell House
Wednesday, August 19

Nick Diamonds emerges in a sparkly cape, which gets me to wondering if anyone other than James Brown will ever be capable of wearing a sparkly cape unironically, but with Islands this is the wrong question, probably. Getting a handle on these guys has always been somewhat difficult, given all the obfuscating goofiness (the talking mess about Vampire Weekend, the losing your new record on the C train). Their defiantly glammed-up pop, slinky and slightly sterile, is filled lately with blooping synths, white-funk stiffness, and zen-slacker koans (“Don’t buy dope from a man you don’t know,” which I’d misheard initially as “Don’t buy a dog,” which is better) — their MySpace currently includes a cover of Beck’s “Cyanide Breath,” which is perfect. Midway through tonight’s set, the cape long gone (a guest rapper stole it), Diamonds feels compelled to mention that, contrary to his all-white wardrobe this evening, he is not a fan of Miami Vice. We appreciate the clarification.

People apparently love these guys, and why not: Diamonds has a swooning, falsetto-prone voice well suited to the music’s hokey surrealism, which gains force the louder the drums get, the faster the tempo gets — the less they sound like Squeeze, and the more they sound like Franz Ferdinand, the better. Most of the set is given over to debuting tunes from Vapours, out next month, featuring Nick’s reunion with once-departed cofounder Jamie Thompson: “Everything Is Under Control” is a very pretty closing falsetto jam, precisely because you don’t know whether to take Nick at his word or not. We appreciate the confusion.

Das Racist, well, I’ve gone way overboard on these guys already, so let’s just say that a) they apparently don’t play “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” live anymore, and b) they’ve replaced it in their set with a cover of “Candle in the Wind.” You can well imagine.