Now that I am a born again concert goer, I'm noticing a disarming trend: the kids just don't seem all that excited. Now that the neo swing fashionism of the Vines and the Whoevers has somewhat subsided, the boys are dropping their plumage and going back to jeans and t-shirts and cute sweaters and this awkward comb-it-all-forward hairdo, the gals when getting dolled up are veering away from Paris Hilton and opting more for Punky Brewster. I mean, its cool and all, life does not need to be a coke-fueled runway disaster at all times, but does it really have to be about as lively as my day job as an office jockey? Lively up yourselves people, you've got the rest of your lives to stand cross-armed on the sidelines. I know we are entering a new Year of the Shoegazer, but as someone who lived through it the first time, I can tell you we danced a little. We had this little sway thing we would all do, sporadically punctuated by a modified pogo climax thing. Its OK to move around a little, these bands are not car-wrecks on the i-10.
Back then, shoegazer central 4AD saved the day wit the Pixies, a band that had that same distance and iciness as the rest, but had some punch in it, something that forced you to move around and get fired up, and they come through again with Baltimore's Celebration. Yes, I agree, the band name is a bit of a speed bump, but the rest of the ride is an organ fueled funny car of thrashy drums, tambourine shimmy and good old fashion about-to-come rock-n-roll excitement. their self-titled debut kicks off with a shot on "War" busting out a gene Krupa drum explosion and ? and the Mysterians organ swirl and Black Francis hollerin. (The husband and wife singers' combined voice gives it that BF squeal. I'll try to let it go) opening the door to maracas and campfire revelry. Its beautiful, makes you wanna run in circles with them and smash things with glee. They get torchy on numbers like "Diamonds" and atmospheric on "China" and pull it off great, with lots of chops and texture and depth, but its really the jump tunes that get me (and actually "China" is pretty jumpy now that I give it a second listen.)
The real gold in them thar hills is the disjointed "Foxes" a groove Frankenstein built of seemingly mismatched parts, powered buy a push-pull engine crafted by Hans Hoffman and Rube-Goldberg in a burning meth lab, that totally rocks. Its orgiastic kaboom is like a parade that broke its bounds and takes over the crowd. So yeah, I get the name - Celebration - but I maintain that when they tour, there is a 2-out-of-5 chance that there is a long standing cover band in that town bearing the self-same Kool and the Gang inspired moniker. I'll let that go to. Some other great moments are the exotica-flavored "Ancient Animals" with its dazzling percussion and Tarzan holler vocals, and mambo of the living dead "Tonight" and cosmic pop stomp of "Stars" which builds up so intently you can actually feel the barometric pressure change. Its totally fun stuff, refreshing really. I hope these cats wash though my little backwater to breath some of their quivering life into my scene and teach all the good children that you can still gaze at your shoes while they are dancing.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com