Do you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have to qualify the fact that you like a band, but not THAT much? I hate having to do it, because liking music should be a positive, expressive thing rather than a quantitative, subtracting thing. But it does happen. It happened to my friends when I started getting stupidly into Wolf Parade, or Of Montreal, or whoever.
And it happens to me with the Unicorns. Because I have two friends who still post on a Unicorns forum. The Unicorns split up in 2004 and they only had one album, but whether it’s because of sample bias or something else, they seem to inspire some fervent love. I never felt that. I liked them, and I liked their demo album too in the same way that I would come to like the lo-fi pop that dominates the last year of posts here. But I wouldn’t charge through No Man’s Land to defend their honour. And I don’t like Islands very much at all, or at least not their second album.
That’s all left me feeling weird, because I got quite into the Clues album, and after this gig, I think I’m actually starting to develop that fervent attachment. I think I like Clues more than I ever liked the Unicorns. It’s not love, but it’s more than like. It’s like like (cf “rape rape” in Goldberg, 2009). Am I nuts? Am I the only one?
I showed up too late to see the Ambience Affair, in what is an ongoing, sitcom-style series of failures to watch them in a bar venue despite the fact that they play all the time and even support bands I’m going to anyway. Don’t give the dinner to the dog, guys, I will get there eventually.
Caught sight of Alden Penner, former Unicorn and lead Clue. It’s always weird to see the mythologised people in the flesh, but this was a particularly weird one. I suppose it’s not all that surprising that the former indie/baroque/toy pop tag team champion of the world would look both very young and very nerdy. But he was. In glasses, he was a Saved By The Bell geek. He took them off to perform though.
As with most bands on their first album, Clues pretty much just stuck to the script of the freshman effort. But how did it get so good? What’s there, that’s not on the already great record? I don’t know. Two drummers, maybe? Charisma? Volume?
Invocatory chords. “OUTWARD REACHING… EXPECTING HANDS!” and then a gap of about thirty seconds. Repeat a few times with different clarion calls, then drop into the languid riff. Toss around some chords for a minute. Then step into it. Pick it up, pick it up, pick it up.
I’m talking shit. That’s Haarp, by the way, if you want to follow along at home. What else? Whole album, basically, like I said. If Haarp was first, what was last? Former Arcade Fire drummer Brendan Reed, standing up behind his drum kit and plaintively singing You Have My Eyes now with an outstretched open hand.
If You Have My Eyes now was last, what was best? Cave Mouth. 2009 is probably my favourite year of music in the history of art for art’s sake, but even if I have to dump out something by BATS or Lovvers or Grizzly Bear, I’m confident enough to say that Cave Mouth’s one of the ten best songs of the year. Made of indie pop not industrial steel, but fashioned out of the same massiveness as Die Slow, it’s a force.
I bought an album as well, and got it signed by Alden, who responded to my general awkwardness (still here after a couple of year, probably not going to go away) by just being the nicest and most conversational dude going. And I heard by the grapevine that Alden and Nick Thorburn (ex-Unicorns and guy who moans about bands in the blogosphere, now Islands) had been discussing sometime Those Geese public abuser Bobby’s interview and the micro-controversy about the video that it stirred up. That’s kind of cool, isn’t it? Like those scenes in the Odyssey or the Aeneid where it cuts to the gods having a debate.
Hard to find fault with this. Have to give two plusses.