City: Washington, DC Venue: The Black Cat Date: 2004-02-24
D.C. was a city born of politics. Like it or not, the music scene here will always be overshadowed by the machinations of Capitol Hill. And generally, our local bands can't seem to tear their collective eyes away from the hallowed halls of the American government. Where would Fugazi, D.C. hardcore's professors emeriti, be without a corrupt political system to rail against?
And yet despite politics' omnipresence, most bands never quite get past the stage of outraged adolescents. They stick to such half-baked comparisons as "three times as many Iraqi citizens have died since the start of the war than died in the World Trade Center attacks." And their lyrics usually run along the less-than-illuminating lines of "I don't believe the lies." These quotes might look like generalizations, but in fact they're culled directly from Decahedron, who peppered their set with unoriginal pronouncements against all the usual (read: Republican) suspects.
Decahedron originally consisted of Shelby Cinca and Jason Hamacher, ex-members of Frodus, and Joe Lally of Fugazi. After recording Disconnection Imminent, due out on Lovitt Records in April, Lally left the band in order to stay close to his family. Cinca and Hammacher picked up bassist Johnathon Ford, formerly of Roadside Monument, to tour with them. Ford plays excellently, though the bass parts seem to still be the ones written by Lally.
The band vacillates between the influences of Fugazi and Motorhead, and that touch of Fugazi may be the band's weakest link. Decahedron dragged on through several dull grooves as Cinca spouted dull, Beat-inspired spoken word. Hamacher's tom-heavy drumming sticks resolutely to low range rumbles that lose their punch at these such slow tempos.
The trio's real forte comes in their fastest moments. Cinca's guttural yell evokes the best of Lemmy, and his guitar work stays on target even at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, these moments were few and far between. Their set lagged in their less creative, mid-tempo breakdowns, when Cinca resorted to repetitive refrains such as "I don't believe the lies."
The most difficult question for overtly political acts is in regards to their target audience. At the Black Cat, packed with educated, 20- and 30-something hipsters, Decahedron is simply preaching to the choir. The chances of their message converting a lost and confused College Republican come close to zero. It seems much more likely that they'll estrange a sympathetic crowd by oversimplifying their shared political positions. Their unwavering seriousness wears thin eventually. It's much better to couch your political in humor, like the always-entertaining D.C. band Weird War, who offer a spoonful of sugar along with their radically liberal views.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Decahedron, opening act the Aquarium served up a set consisting mostly of whimsical instrumentals. Constantly rolling educational films battled the passive stage presence of the two seated players, one behind a drum set and one behind a set of keyboards. The warm, fuzzy sounds coming from their vintage keyboard perfectly matched the cheery visuals from films about the trucking industry, the periodic table and its elements, and, of course, an aquarium. Their cheerful set gave the audience a welcome chance to relax, bask in the glow of faded Technicolor, and just believe the lies.
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