When it comes down to music, it’s either Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Moonface, Swan Lake, Destroyer, or Handsome Furs for me. It’s simple science that rarely deviates. Friends and fellow car passenger know what to expect. I am an avid fan of the art created by Canadian wolf artists such as Dan Broekner, Spencer Krug, Carey Mercer and Dan Bejar. Their lyricism is honest, the melodies are challenging, and the results of these collaborating Canadians often end up in a certain type of magic that is hard to find anywhere else.
My brother and I had the opportunity to see Wolf Parade perform last year while living in Eastern Europe in May of 2010. We had no idea what to expect. Back home, this band sold out shows, yet none of our Czech friends had even heard of them. The venue was a stereotypical dark underground Czech bar: cool, windowless, and smoke filled. We bought our tickets at the door and walked into the empty space. It felt too good to be true and in some ways it felt a little wrong, like we had stepped into something very personal. It felt very secret; sacred even.
The next day I had the opportunity to talk to Broekner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs. We talked about New York. We talked about the music and film industry. We talked about the sold out U.S. tours that pay for their bands to play in the places that inspire them. Thailand, Poland, Romania, Vietnam…. Places that have shared a theme of artistic oppression, places where the strongest art often thrives beneath the surface.
In April 2011, back in New York, my brother and I had yet another lucky opportunity to see Broekner and Alexei Perry sold out Handsome Furs show at the Bell House. The Brooklyn bar’s Czech Pilsner Urquell over-priced and skunked this time around, but that didn’t matter. We were front and center and about to experience the futuristic past portal that is the Handsome Furs’ new album, Sound Kapital.
The show opened with an overwhelming “Do the Right Thing”, filled with Eastern European techno dance beats dripping in heavy electronic bass and synthesized electronic twinges over raw guitar riffs. We could feel the dark subterranean dubstep nights flooding back into our veins; somehow we found a temporary ticket to our Prague past; a fluke in the universe.
Some new songs, such as “What About Us”, were played. It ecstatic, brain-numbing soulless techno beats washed over, complete with meaningful words that made up for anyone with an ear untrained for drum and bass. I can’t remember the last time I was at a show truly hoping for more new material to be played.
On “When I Get Back”, another new song, Broekner sings, “Oh my heart it was in trouble, it will be changed, and I won’t feel it anymore, when I get back, when I get back, I won’t feel the same, I won’t feel the same, I won’t feel it anymore”, it is one of those rare personal moments that you swear an artist is talking directly to you. Broekner and Perry have tapped into something that I have a hard time putting into words. Meanwhile, “Repatriated” is an anthem for those of us who refuse to pledge allegiance to anything except to a larger world of artists and idealists seeking to make improvements on the global scale.
Sound Kapital is for the wild artist at heart, for expatriates in day clothes secretly plotting for the chance to escape again. Thanks to Handsome Furs’ awesome performance, my wanderlust was most certainly reawakened. Best of luck on your 2011 Eastern European tour.