Wednesday, March 02, 2005

D

Daft Punk- Homework

A reminder of the four years I spent working at this trendy Eurotrash restaurant on the hippest shopping street in Boston. Late evenings that culminated in any of a dozen bars packed with varying amounts of Versace-veiled flesh, full of haze and hormones, expense accounts and too much effort as the clock hands crept closer to last call (who am I kidding? Too much effort, period.) It’s funny how seductive the whole thing can be- I’m a beer guy first and foremost. Doing shots (or even drinking liquor) will inevitably make me throw up, and too much wine gives me a headache. As long as I’ve lived in the city, I’ve always felt more comfortable drinking an IPA out of a plastic cup over at the Model or the Silhouette. Still, the job made the transition to the trash dens very easy- when you’re around the scene all the time, it’s not hard to get immersed in it afterwards. All the while, at all the places, anonymous European techno played over the sound systems- nothing with words to get in the way of the ‘conversation.’

Not all of it was so anonymous, though. Daft Punk was the one act that I sought out after so much exposure, mostly because of their sense of humor. Not sure how I could tell that something as klanky and robotic had an underlying drollness about it, especially when all of my listening was in dens of inequity- maybe it was just the French thing (“Who’s this playing?” “Daft Punk- they’re French.” Every time, I shit you not: “Daft Punk- they’re French.”) This record doesn’t get pulled out too often. When it does, it makes people dance, and it makes me crack up because I know how silly it is. I think that the guys in the act know that I know, too. I’m not sure if the dancing girls know, but if you want to get them off of my coffee table to tell them, be my guest.

Dambuilders- Encendedor!

When was the last time a credible indie band from Boston signed to a major and blew up? There must be an instance of such a thing happening, right? I can’t go on living my life thinking that all of the bands in this town that get hyped and sign flop. It’s discouraging to think that in a lot of instances it’s more a case of who you know than what you play- it’s just not possible that Boston signees go belly up because they’re not that good to begin with, is it? Man, that would be brutal.

This thinking, for the record, doesn’t have much of anything to do with ‘Encendedor!’ I never got to see the Dambuilders play- they were playing just before I started seeing local bands gig Boston. I remember reading that their goal was to release this set of singles, one named after each state in the union (witness ‘Idaho’ and ‘Delaware’ on this slab.)

Since I wasn’t here when it was happening, I have no idea whether the Dambuilders were one of those bands that knew the right people. It doesn’t really matter. Ten-plus years later, their record still sounds good- solid pop with quirks that make them easily distinguishable from the rest of the pack. Lots of solid backing vocal harmonies, the ability to change tempos with ease, a solid sound that is augmented by their equipment (the distorto guitar that comes in during ‘Shrine,’ for example- whoah!) and, of course, the violin. Joan Wasser’s strings add so much every time she plays- a lot of bands with cellists or violinists don’t know how to incorporate the sounds well, and wind up falling into the ‘we have a strings player’ category. Not these guys. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dambuilders got signed in the post-Nirvana/Green Day buying frenzy and got lost in the shuffle of the zillion other bands. It’s a shame, because this record is wonderful.

Ben Davis- The Hushed Patterns of Relief

My pal Chris picked this up for me when Ben Davis played a largely unattended show at Charlie’s a few years back. I was under the impression that Ben, who used to be in Milemarker, had also been in this Richmond band called Whirlybird who crashed at summer camp with me close to ten years ago. Wrong Ben, as it turns out- the guy I was thinking about is now a cartoon artist and plays in J Church (I think that’s him, anyway.)

‘Hushed Patterns Of Relief’ is a hell of a solo album. The associations I make when the term is uttered tend to range towards either way sparse or way overindulgent. This album is neither. Everything on the record flows, fits well- big drums, strings that sound a little reminiscent of Three Mile Pilot, some piano all fitting into pop song structures without being cloying or obvious. Good vocal harmonies, too, veering ever so slightly towards the alt-country tip every now and again. Probably overlooked because of the whole ‘solo artist’ thing- everyone should refer to Mr. Davis as an artist and drop the solo tag entirely.

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