Saturday, February 13, 2010

Appetite for Snacks

Newfangled [EP]
La Snacks

La Snacks play tonight at the Ghost Room, which is something you should look into. They're going on tour and they deserve to hit the open road with a full head of a steam (which might be a mixed metaphor). Joining them for the show and the tour are Transmography, who sound like the 1980's-vision-of-the-future side of Trans Am (at least on their recordings).

Since I'm mentioning the show it's a good time to discuss La Snacks' lovely EP, which doesn't quite capture the whole stylistic range or rock fury of the band's stage show. It's quite good, but it's significant that none of the songs on the CD are the ones that instantly stood out to me as great when first I saw the band. They're getting better still. What Newfangled does show is that they have a firm grasp of what drives original songwriting and a solid identity that gives them the freedom to move out and get weirder as they grow.

The big key to the band's ability to stand out is their ease with hooks. Rather than building their songs around strumming chords, they start with catchy choruses. There's not very much rhythm guitar in their music at all, just bass, single-line guitar, and vocals all delivering melodies that shadow and reinforce each other. Their sound is on its surface 90's college rock, but the democratic way that the band arranges itself around the singer and the rhythm equally is modern (or modern revivalist, I guess). Robert Segovia makes history-nerd lyrics about Neville Chamberlain and Jesse Jackson into sing-along choruses thanks to his own strong sense of melody, but the band helps to drive the lines home by playing as so much more than straight men. "Oil and Water" may beat its chorus part into the ground, but such a chorus!

The other great thing ringing out clearly on this bare-bones recording is their attitude. Segovia has a persona and outlook he's assuming as rock singer in a theatrical yet matter of fact way; he might not naturally be an extrovert, a performer, or a boozehound but he's such a student of the form (an East Indiana Bob Pollard, maybe) that he assumes these guises when he's singing because, well, rock is supposed to rock. "I was born to a lion and a goddess," he claims on "Jackson 88," coming down in silky steps from a high note he has absolutely no business singing. This congenially false bravado more than balances out his laments over ex-girlfriends and a couple weak choruses elsewhere.

Because they have a signature that goes beyond a single repeated combination of influences -- in their attitude, in their singer's part-invented "frontman of La Snacks" stage presence, in the manner Segovia correctly pronounces "Sudetenland" even though it messes up his rhyme scheme -- the band even in its youth can take creative gambles and still sound like themselves. That's awesome and it's rare and I hope they make the most of it.

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