Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Men - more specifically musicians - in hats, its a rum business and no mistaking. A band like The Hold Steady, for example, never really stood a chance round here thanks in no small part to that guy in the hat. What a 'character' he must be. Is he called Joey? They usually are. This kind of self-conscious image statement is just an embarrassing distraction: 'Yeah, OK, but what's with the hat?' Harmless affectation? No such thing, says I. So reallyrather was duly conflicted on Monday night at the free Plants and Animals show at the Big Chill House in Kings Cross. Three guys, two hats...
posted by SMc at 4:55 AM
...it didn't look good. Happily, the Canadian trio went quite some way towards defying such superficial preconceptions as they gamely attempted to recreate the expansive, lush sprawl that constitutes much of debut album Parc Avenue armed with just two guitars, three plain voices and a drum kit. Not surprisingly, the more straight-ahead stuff fared best, the subtleties of its mellower, blissed out elements largely goin' out the window in favour of an intense power trio attack driven by dervish drummin'. Things like Feedback in the field (an ace brisk lean chugger with neat effects-pedal guitar) and New kind of love rocked mightily.
[plants and animals]
The record itself careers about all over the place but there's a distinct pysch-jam groove underpinning things. Good friend has a Steely Dan-like sinuousness, with '70s orch-pop moments thrown in. A l'Orée Des Bois, Sea shanty and Keep it real follow the West Coast pilgrimage of Tim Bluhm and the Mother Hips; instrumental closer Guru is some kind of jazz dance raga but, be reassured, is not at all as gruesome as that sounds. And though it flirts with hideousness (like album opener/gig closer Bye bye bye's initial but happily shortlived Coldplay/Antony threat) everything falls just the right side of the line and the whole thing's a great listen. It's the track Faerie dance that points to Parc Avenue's closest recent parallel...
...Annuals' Be he me, similarly fecund and over-stuffed and to this blog's way of thinking more attractive all ways up. And this N. Carolina collective recently put out the stop-gap Zoo EP which adds another two or three slabs of soaring loveliness to the canon, to wit, er, Sore:
And if you like all this kind of stuff you'll definitely want to hear Plants and Animals fellow Montreal native David Martel's just-released debut, I hardly knew me. Though there are some conspicuous influences here (particularly Sufjan Stevens - Love is a straight rip - also, more alarmingly, the preciousness of Rufus Wainwright/Damien Rice) there are too many good tunes and arrangements on here to be ignored. Most immediately appealing is Stay in which has a gorgeously adrenalising second half you'll be singing for days. But Cancel all your plans, the very lovely On the corner, Save your complex etc etc all kind of defy you to press the pause button. And yes, alright, the hat theory looks like taking another kicking...
[david martel][hear the whole album here]