Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Loud

Quiet Company
Eastside Yoga, 3/20

Named Austin's 4th best new band (in their fourth year of existence), Quiet Company clearly know what they're on about. They have a will to succeed... you can tell because it takes five minutes for their MySpace page to load completely. In terms of placing themselves right in the sweet spot as far as what people expect of current radio-friendly indie, they've filled out every form completely. Their singer has the voice of a 14-year-old, which helps make their thematically tiresome lyrics sound less processed. Their songs are well-crafted. I appreciate the way that they use harmony vocals extensively and in a varied fashion -- not the same sort of arrangement every time.

They're a fine live band, particularly doing a good job of upping the intensity of the instruments without totally obscuring the vocals. But I would never in a million years buy one of their records, because there is nothing even remotely original about their songwriting. If you're reading this, you've heard it all before. Quiet Company lacks any potential whatsoever to surprise. When their singer switches from piano to guitar, they still sound exactly the same. The lyrics are decently formed in small doses, but ultimately their songs are indistinguishable from each other, lacking big central hooks or any kind of telltale dynamics. They're aggressively pleasant -- which is not a good thing if you're ambitious.

For their show at Eastside Yoga, a benefit for Music for the City, they put their best foot forward by leading off with a song that showcased a guest horn section (trumpet and trombone) splendidly. I got excited. Unfortunately, for the rest of the songs the horn players mostly bobbed up and down, instruments silent, while the two guitar-bass-drums band worked their single groove into a nice wide rut. Then they finished things off (for me, anyway, I leave when bands play terrible covers) with a dreadfully within-the-lines reading of a hugely overexposed song ("Monkey Gone to Heaven"). Couldn't they have at least worked out a horn part for the knee-jerk Pixies cover? Would that have been so hard?

These guys are talented musicians and melody composers. But their band as presently composed is way too much of a okay thing. Where are the slow songs? Where are the fast songs? Where are the lyrics about something besides being self-interested, overindulged white romantics? If they used the horn players full-time, at least you could describe them as "Death Cab for Cutie with horns" (as I have). But they don't use the horn players full-time. So what's left to make them distinctive, their outfits?

Not that it's strictly relevant here, but I always wonder how many Death Cab for Cutie fans are aware of the Bonzo Dog Band. Do they know who Neil Innes is? Are they fascinated by the weird connection to Monty Python? Or is that just me? Probably just me. When does a dream begin?

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