CMJ 2009

Day 2 - Surf City + The Love Language + Pete and the Pirates

by Caroline Shadood

22 October 2009

The CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival invades New York City this week. Here's the latest from PopMatters' writers on the beat. Words and Pictures by Caroline Shadood
Pete and the Pirates at Bell House, Brooklyn 

Surf City
Bell House, Brooklyn
I hate to slap on labels like “buzz” or “bandwagon,” but when every song intro in some way replicates The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and then develops into a more Japandroids concoction, it’s hard not to.  The resurgence of, often over-calculated, garage music has fully breached Brooklyn boarders, and New Zealand’s Surf City is wallowing in the flood zone.  Though pleasant sounding they lacked innovation, making it harder to appreciate the soothing melodies and hints at surf rock that my ears usually welcome.

The Love Language
Bell House, Brooklyn
Equipped with jangley keyboards and fuzzy harmonies, the Love Language are an attractive seven-piece whose retro 50’s melodies left me pining for more.  No wishy-washy pastel suits or choreographed torso swaying here, just spastic tambourines and colliding vocals to round out their vibrant tunes.  Though they hardly need such are large band to accomplish their sound, the on-stage community they created last night was endearing.  Their nostalgic genre bending is best heard in “Providence” and “Lalita,” both of which were performed.

Pete and the Pirates
Bell House, Brooklyn
When a band’s only real setback is a lack of American distribution, you know they’re something special.  Pete and his buccaneers have it, but it’s hard to pin down precisely what “it” is.  Perhaps it’s the punchy melodies they churn out, or maybe it’s the way they never attempt to veil their Berkshire accents.  It could also be their ability to sound both pointed and smooth, bringing to mind Pulp, Billy Bragg, and Vampire Weekend.  Comparisons aside, Pete & the Pirates have a distinct fluidity to them, segueing from the melancholy melodies of “She Doesn’t Belong to Me” to the boisterous chorus of “Mr. Understanding” (which, by the way, immaculately evokes “Flathead” by the Fratellis.)  They played a lengthy headlining set at the Bell House, treating fans to almost their entire young catalogue.


Set List:

Little Gun
Not A Friend
Bright Lights
Eyes Like Tar
Come On Feet
Lost in the Woods
Good Girl
Cold Black
She Doesn’t Belong to Me
Mr. Understanding
Blood Thin

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