Scouting for Girls sang about heartbreak. But they were never serious about it. In fact, they mostly found it funny in a self-deprecating way. Accompanying their amusing tales of unreciprocated love and envying James Bond’s libido were terse, tart tunes, readily consumed by a sizeable gaggle of enthusiastic girls. The London four-piece found humor in the present too, mocking the inevitable CMJ tech problems. Joking that their bass player was without an amp, Roy Stride, lead singer and keyboard player, said, “it’s only four strings.” Still, they were genuinely taken by crowd’s loud singing, and in the end their satisfaction and genuineness were a refreshing change from the surrounding parade of self-aggrandizement.
Latest Blog Posts
Piano pop and rock music, under the singer-songwriter genre umbrella, took a blow to its reputation thanks to people like Daniel Powter—which is totally fine if you enjoy listening to music at the hair salon. Nobody takes it seriously anymore. But we owe a lot to the genre (i.e. Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel) and Nathan Angelo could provide a boost to its reputation. He boasted an incredibly clear and powerful voice: As malleable as a Jason Mraz but infinitely stronger, yet not as weightless as Jay Kay’s of Jamiroquai. With a backing band that included another pianist, playing mostly organ, he added subtle touches to his funk sound, like curious syncopations, accents, and stops. When he wanted to, he serenaded with American-Idol vigor, but he seems to have his head on straight, opting for the low road. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, played near the end of his set, was a simple reminder of why this genre is still so great and why it shouldn’t ignore people like Nathan Angelo.
As P Diddy’s only non-reality TV generated musical fosterage, Janelle Monae consequently possesses immense talent—and by default star-quality, because why else would Diddy be in the same sentence? And as Diddy’s new dauphin she is at once retrograde and innovative, feminine and masculine, mature and youthfully exuberant. She has chosen to craft her image and persona (thus ultimately controlling it to a large extent) as a nostalgic nod towards saddle shoes and Billie Holiday while at the same time writing songs about cyber-girls and alien invaders. All this mixes into one unflinching caricature, much like Stephen Colbert is impenetrable as a G.O.P. stalwart. She opened with her most popular song, “Violet Stars Happy Hunting!”, a galactic funk dance number that catapulted her energy into the set. But she then slowed it down immediately, singing a gorgeously slow and moving solo, accompanied only by electric guitar. What comparisons have been made to Holiday strike me as without merit. I found her stature and sheer singing might align with the French sparrow, Edith Piaf. Most of her songs revolved around her sociological alien experiment theme—a reaction to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis–singing, “Are we really living or just walking dead?” Though she never fully answered the question, her inexhaustible energy led her to moonwalking (Michael Jackson’s moves were practically hereditary at times) both into and on top of the crowd. As the complete package Janelle Monae is a name I expect we’ll hear a lot of.
Being that I’m a cynical ass and this here is a “Music From Ireland” showcase, for a brief moment I fully expected that I’d be starting this recap with a joke about potatoes, or maybe car bombs (the drink), or Lucky Charms, or car bombs (the unconscionable acts of Euro-terrorism), or the pompousness of Bono, or… well, gosh, the possibilities are endless!
So much for that plan: Giveamanakick deserve to be taken seriously. The diagonal engine-revving of the opening guitar riff caught me in the throat as soon as I walked in, and the next forty minutes were positively unrelenting. Train-wreck-in-a-box vocals, Tom Morello vertical contours, guttural kick drum rolls, and, at one point, a power chord juxtaposed against a droning high E string which were positively transcendent together, especially in this particular context.
See, the depth of arrangement was stunning for a duo, but at the same time, with just two grumbling Irishmen on stage, it was almost like a minimalist reduction of punk—the genuinely aggressive kind, not just the regional-flavor Dropkick Murphy thing. That’s still an oversimplification, though: It was too jagged and prog-rock and stuttering and, well, too admirable and difficult. I’ve met a fair number of punk rock kids over the years, and they generally can’t do anything remotely like this because they just don’t practice enough. It’s not actually loose and reckless—you just have to make it look that way.
Having discovered these guys, CMJ suddenly makes sense again. The sheer number of shows and the alarming who-the-hell-is-that ratio can be pretty intimidating, and sometimes enough to overcome even the most meticulous of logistical organization attempts. But all across the city, new under-appreciated treasures are popping up in front of music lovers as if in a game of rock-and-roll Whack-A-Mole. Eat that, Guitar Hero. I stumbled upon this accidentally, instead expecting the Autodrone set that’s going down a couple blocks away, but it’s far and away the best thing I’ve seen this week so far. I’ve been drinking sponsored-by-Red-Bulls for days, but come tomorrow morning I’ll finally be re-energized for real.