This Little Underground 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GARCIA
  • Photo by Christopher Garcia

Now that the NFL season is 
over, can we finally focus on the Magic again? And that goes especially for those tall guys who actually play for the Magic.

The beat

Almost nothing sends my libido rocketing like the peerlessly sexy sounds of T. Rex, so ain’t no way I was gonna miss Chicago’s Smith Westerns (Feb. 3, Back Booth). And, man, that new album of theirs (Dye It Blonde) is one seriously seductive freefall into glam wonderland. The good news is that the widescreen fidelity of their latest sonic direction was faithfully rendered live, fully honoring the band’s innately epic sense of song. Capturing all that glitter and shimmer minus the makeup and boots, they’ve somehow managed to bridge the raw economy of garage with the full-blown opulence of the ’70s to miraculous, breakout-worthy effect.

The excellence of Smith Westerns alone totally would’ve been enough. But making it an almost impossibly loaded bill was 
wildly promising U.K. band, Yuck. Dealing in full-on ’90s indie-rock glory, only with much sharper melodies, their eponymous debut album (out on Fat Possum next week) plays like a rad mixtape of the best from the early part of that decade: No filler and loaded with bullseyes. Merging woozy, wooly cool with razor-sharp pop sensibility, their 
soul-coaxing indie rock fills the chest, sticks to the ribs and dizzies the head. Although barely out of the gate, few today pack as much perfection of melody per pound as Yuck.

Smith Westerns and Yuck are a couple of hot-buzzing bands that are absolutely equal to their hype, and having them on one bill was something special. Sure, both are pretty derivative. But they hit the sweet spot like a motherfucker, so I say go on witcha bad selves. And what an insane turnout to greet them. Well done, Orlando. As a scene observer, participant and advocate, absolutely nothing makes me happier than seeing a great turnout for a great show.

On a completely different note, I was at the Hellogoodbye show (Feb. 1, the Social). Why? It’s a fair question. Even the door guys asked when I rolled up. Truth is, I wasn’t there to see them, but rather Chicago’s Gold Motel, the solo project by the Hush Sound’s Greta Morgan. Now, the Hush Sound isn’t my bag either, but there are some solid sunshine-pop chops in Gold Motel’s effervescent songs. Well, they ended up sounding a little more generic live than I had hoped. But if they’d inject their sound with some smarter, even modestly edgier framing, they could be pretty decent, because the melodies are there. Put Morgan’s bright, natural voice in a more mature setting and this band could jump immediately into respectability.

Because I was already there – in the purgatory between teendom and ostensible young adulthood that seems to comprise Hellogoodbye’s following – I figured, “What the hell. Let’s crack a beer and give it a shot.” And in all honesty, they’re not as pussy live as I expected. Turns out, they’ve had some key personnel changes that had a fundamental impact on their musical direction so there was, mercifully, much less of their former emo-pop gloss. Instead, it was much more straight-ahead and big pop-rock that was reasonably solid. Moreover, their energetic, booming live sound had some moments of real size. Put it this way: It didn’t make me wanna hurt anyone. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but you could do worse than to listen to Hellogoodbye among all the dregs in today’s pop-music landscape. At least until you’re old enough to smoke.

Although the promotion was scant for an out-of-state touring band, I heard about St. Paul, Minn.’s Daymoths (Feb. 2, Peacock Room) at the last minute and went in hopes of digging up a hidden gem. Such was not the case. It’s not that their warm, pensive synth-pop is a bad idea or anything – the early, more electronic version of the Pauses pulled it off well. But unfortunately for Daymoths, they don’t have the Pauses’ natural flow or fullness of song. Most critically, their music lacks incisiveness. Moreover, when you have a barebones drums-and-keyboard setup like that, you’ve gotta have a mastery of mood and atmosphere to make it fully breathe. And they don’t yet, so they came off as earnest enough but dinky-sounding. I came, I saw, 
I shrugged.

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