This Little Underground

In this week's column: not a goddamned word about Twitter!

The beat

Worse than anger or even hatred, ennui is the worst reaction any band can elicit. And I'm kinda sad to report that it set in with As Tall as Lions (March 25, the Social), an indie-ish pop band from Long Island, N.Y. Maybe they've been a snore all along. Their last album as a whole didn't exactly make me a believer. But I guess I've always sorta held out hope for the guys because they managed to squeeze out "Ghost of York," a gorgeous, towering pop song that hit it just right.

Anyway, even though they included the song, this performance wasn't built of the same serendipity. Instead of the heartfelt head rush of that sparkling little gem, the rest of the set languished in that polite, edgeless Nerf world populated by marshmallows like Snow Patrol and Coldplay. As well-furnished as their sound was, it ultimately failed for lack of aim and punctuation.

Guilty of a similar sin, albeit in a very different hue and to a much lesser degree, were Brooklyn metal miners Hull (March 26, Will's Pub). Not that they were completely flaccid like As Tall as Lions; they certainly weren't, but one has a right to expect a lot when faced with three guitarists and a wall of amps that suggests these dudes have seen Jucifer once or twice before.

In many ways they were impressive and occasionally fierce, but overkill blunted their attack. First, much of the detail of all that fancy musicianship simply wasn't discernible. Second, the degree to which it was made the band a technical jumble at the perilous cost of force. There was tons going on, but how much of it really mattered is questionable.

Opening Jacksonville duo Hollow Leg was far more economical and effective. I definitely have a thing for two-pieces, and an act like this is why. With only a guitar and drums, these cats laid down total punishment with sludge-and-doom action heavy enough to cause Chinese tremors. That's what's called maximum efficiency and impact. No dicking around with wanky details — just straight to the point, loudly. Carved deep with nasty grooves and skull-scraping distortion, their sound bears down on you, pounding and snarling like a T. rex in slo-mo. This is one act worth some serious attention. Bands like this — who carry none of the fashion clichés, only a single-minded focus on destruction — are why metal is so good right now.

Australian dance act Cut Copy (March 27, Club Firestone) impressed as a prime-time headliner. Serving up a big, professional show, they validated the measured cool of their voluminous union of Euro-dance, disco and '80s synth pop. Sleek stage rig, polished performance: Everything was in place. Few contemporaries bring together melody, style and mass like Cut Copy.

Plucky Brooklyn openers Matt & Kim were focused less on production and more on all-out personality. Playing with faces convinced that every single beat and note they struck brought a brand-new Christmas morning, this is a pop band dizzied by the world and everything in it. Fucking precious, ain't it? Seriously, though, their spritzer of effervescent melodies and fresh-faced spirit was awfully charming and infectious. Their performance wasn't a display of technical mastery in any way, but they triumphed by keeping it simple and fun. Not too many people bust a cover of Europe's "The Final Countdown" sans irony. Then again, not too many synthesizer-playing pop frontmen dare to do a Jesus walk on top of the crowd, either. Had you been there, you'd wanna pinch their damned cheeks too.

Also finding liberation through a near-total lack of self-consciousness was the awesome dance party that was kicked up by the DJ set of local multimedia scientist and Gone & Records recording artist Pan/Dos (March 24, Eye Spy). Unlike the experimental electronic excursions of his original material, this was a straight-up old-school rap throwdown. Pasty hipsters, as a general rule, have little in the way of breakin' skillz to rely on. But white man's curse be damned; this bunch didn't need much urging to open a dance circle and trade moves.

A scene from Beat Street it wasn't, but it was pretty sweet anyway. God bless 'em and their skinny jeans.

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