Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Nature Of The Experiment

Saturday night, the Drake Underground played host to what I’d consider a fairly good microcosm of the indie scene here in Toronto. Three bands, all quite different but all fine ambassadors for their respective styles, on one bill. Two I was quite familiar with, one I figured I may as well get acquainted with considering the growing buzz around them.

The Ghost Is Dancing I’d seen twice before and each time, they’ve gotten bigger and wackier and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing. Boasting a nine-piece band and an arsenal of instruments real and makeshift, they’ve still got some good tunes and energy to spare, but I wonder if they might be letting the chaos of their live show run a little roughshod over the music (not that they’re the only ones – see below). I dunno, it seems to be working for them and it was certainly entertaining, but I’m wondering if someone’s going to have to take a step back at some point and reassess live show tactics. But I won’t be surprised if next time I see them, there’s a circus elephant onstage.

After the stage-overflowing cacaphony of The Ghost Is Dancing, The Coast’s setup seemed positively austere by comparison but they just proved you don’t need giant papier mache dragons or dazzling lightshows to be riveting onstage – sometimes great tunes are all it takes. You may (or may not) recall my review of their self-titled EP a last month, but as much as I enjoyed it then I’m surprised how much more its grown on me in the interim. There’s a couple songs on there that are some of the best things I’ve heard all year, no word of lie. Rendered live, there was an extra roughness around the edges that was a nice counterpoint to the cleaner-sounding shimmer of the recorded versions. Highly recommended for anyone with an yen for fresh yet classic-sounding Brit-styles.

It seems sad that it’d take some vegan in Brooklyn to bring Tokyo Police Club to my attention, but there you go. The four-piece has just released their debut EP A Lesson In Crime on Paper Bag Records and are reaping some buzz for the effort, so the Drake was pretty full by the time they climbed onstage. This Exlaim! piece details how the band decided that “silly” and “ridiculous” stage antics would be the best way to win over audiences, and that ethos was in full effect on Saturday. The big signs and giant red flag were nice touches but when they broke out the armfull of rolled up newspaper and asked the audience to build giant towers out of them to win home-made cookies, it got a little much. The crowd quite enthusiastically took up the challenge and everyone was having a great time playing arts and crafts, and that was sort of the problem – I’ll guarantee you not one of the people taking part in the little civil engineering challenge was listening to the band. Hell, I was barely able to pay attention for the construction going on all around me and I wasn’t even playing (okay, I taped a few pieces together but they would have fallen on me otherwise). And that’s rather a shame because while their sound is hardly original at the moment, they’ve got some ace songs and should really give themselves and their music more credit for being able to engage the audience with it. The gimmicks aren’t doing anyone any favours except maybe those who are inspired to rediscover their old Erector sets.

It probably comes off a bit sour to rag on bands for wanting to put on an entertaining and engaging show for their audience, and maybe it’s just me showing my age but I’d much rather it be done with the music than with a sideshow. Of course, consider that some of my favourite live bands of all time (Luna, Mojave 3, Wilco) don’t do anything but get up and play – if you dig on the bands that bring out the fire-breathing or lion-taming, you’d probably disagree. Kids these days and their ADD. I tell ya.

Check out the MySpaces for The Coast and The Ghost Is Dancing. Since Tokyo Police Club’s is their only website, I’ll give you this interview with The Gazette instead. And photos, of course. And here’s some audio to soundtrack your morning – the sounds of Toronto!

MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “Cheer It On”
MP3: Tokyo Police Club – “Nature Of The Experiment”
MP3: The Coast – “The Lines Are Cut”
MP3: The Ghost Is Dancing – “Organ”

Folks looking for info on The Sleepy Jackson’s new one at their website may be a little perplexed that it now just forwards on to EMI Australia’s website. The whys and wherefores of this, I don’t know, but your one stop source for all things Luke Steele can now be found at Okay, maybe there’s two stops – there’s also the MySpace. The album – whose title has gotten longer since last check (Personality – One Was a Spider, On Was a Bird) – is out July 25 and there’s a track-by-track review in their forum.

The Austin Chronicle talks to Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg about stepping out of Okkervil River’s shadow and finding his own voice.

The Guardian dedicates more than a few column-inches to a couple Canadian icons with extended pieces on Leonard Cohen, who has just put out a new book of poetry, and Neil Young, who wants to impeach the president. The Los Angeles Times rounds up some of the reaction to Living With War.

And as you settle in tonight for the season finale of 24, consider this interesting analysis of the 24 clock, apparently a bane to typographiles everywhere. And speaking of clocks, don’t forget it starts an hour early tonight. Update: Note to Canadian viewers – The Toronto Star sez that Fox will air the last 2 episodes back to back but Global is breaking them in half to run The Apprentice at 9. Because they’re, you know, IDIOTS.

np – Rainer Maria / Catastrophe Keeps Us Together

By : Frank Yang at 9:14 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. rubber says:

    i love tokyo police club and i think they are what is going to make things fresh again in toronto and worldwide!

  2. thomaus says:

    You’ve been blurbitized on the Coast myspace page…and only one ellipses!… Exclaim, eye, and chromewaves. The order seems a bit backwards.

  3. Frank says:

    rubber – yeah, no. no they’re not.

  4. Rob says:

    Love Tokyo Police Club.
    These guys are going to be huge!
    A young band with a raw sound sound that you end up listening to again and again asking what is it that I like so much about these guys?