Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Megafauna, Dudes Die
Red 7, 3/11

The first time I saw Megafauna they were playing in a room that didn't really have a ceiling high enough to contain their power. Checking them out a second time with a brawnier PA in effect, I have a new appreciation for their style. Dani Neff's songs have nonlinear structures and overlapping rhythms drawn from 90's post-rock, but delivered with a loud, nasty edge that's anything but introspective. Stereolab mingling with AC/DC? Indeed, why not? Add in a vocal approach that's part art-pop, part space jazz and the band has three recognizable threads that aren't normally heard in combination. They're original and fun to watch -- Neff looks as if someone should follow her around with a giant prop fan so that every time she picks up a guitar her hair can blow out behind her. Their songs are confident enough to take long detours through quiet sections before exploding in blood-curdling, burning-flesh guitar solos.

I don't think the band is reaching its potential, though. Though bassist Will Krause has the technical skills to match Neff, as a band they seem like they have too many thumbs and too few fingers. Krause and Neff spend a lot of time working separate syncopated riffs, and more often than not it seems as if they are at cross purposes. The bass spends way too much time playing in its high register, stepping on the toes of the guitar. When the guitar solos come in, it doesn't seem like everyone has the same agenda. Krause's slapping and chords are impressive but when they obscure rather than enhance the drive of the songs they're doing more harm than good. Megafauna definitely want to use Neff's songs and her daredevil guitar playing as their calling card. To get that over effectively, the bass should concentrate on reinforcing the songs' existing rhythms rather than adding several confusing new ones to the debate.

The peculiarly named Dudes Die have a musical signature -- their guitarist and drummer harmonize very nicely over politely strummed postpunk jangle. It's not a bad sound, but they arrive at it too easily -- all of their songs explore the same sort of tempo, the intervals of the harmonies never change, structurally they're quite predictable. Seemingly every song ends with a section where they reprise the basic chords while growing progressively sloppier. They could use a bass player, as the melodic additions from their keyboard player/second guitarist were often jarringly late. They mostly need to find ways of getting away from their formula for long enough that when they do get into their comfort zone, it seems welcome rather than annoying. Also, they shouldn't have their guitarist try to play drums on stage, because he isn't any good at it all. Just because your drummer can play guitar a little, that doesn't mean you can or should switch places with him!

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