Monday, January 26, 2009

Los Campesinos! and Titus Andronicus, Jan. 19, Jack Rabbits

Multiply literate existential anarchists Titus Andronicus, from New Jersey, could be the bar band in a Thomas Pynchon novel. At Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, Patrick Stickles perched above the rest of the band, impassioned channeler of the songs, more medium than singer. It's the only way I can explain his remarkable range of vocal influences, from Lou Reed to Replacement's Westerberg to Clash's Strummer to Pogue's MacGowan, though he's slight and jerks around sometimes as though possessed by Ian Curtis. The band lays a storied sonic tapestry underneath Stickle's voice, woven through with rich influences from sock-hop and surf-rock, classic punk, jig and dirge, grunge and 90's indie, even the Boss. Two of them have literature degrees, but, while allusions from Brueghel (clearly Auden's) to Hunter S. Thompson and Albert Camus to Cormac McCarthy punctuate their work, they're working class scholars and know that when the revolution comes, they'll attack the ivory tower first. That is, their songs are accessible and ironically intelligent anthems for the meaninglessness of life, which I suppose boys from the New Jersey suburbs know more about than the rest of us. The pinaccle for me was "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ," as Stickle hammered out a long closing jig crescendoing into collapse and a bleating recorded reading from the darkest passage of the bloodiest Shakespeare play. Fuck this description, which is just lists and lame comparisons. If you like nothing, you will love Titus Andronicus.

Envoi: After the Los Campesinos! finished, while fans milled about groveling for autographs and conversation (myself included), Patrick started playing around with Los Campesinos!' glockenspiel, fascinated, picking out a melody, utterly absorbed. Perfect.

Los Campesinos! followed with a strong and strikingly upbeat set (despite the absence of ill Harriet [get well] and her violin), but certainly not diminished in enthusiasm or dancibility. They're difficult to describe, but think Toy Dolls backed by Arcade Fire (on nitrous oxide) singing songs Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux might have composed chronicling their various beautiful dissipated difficulties and darknesses. LC! threw out their ironically, clashingly upbeat symphonic tight pop in all its exuberantly desperate yearning. No matter how fucked up the situations in the songs, it's hard to be sad when you're dancing, and everyone was, from the "classics" like "Death to Los Campesinos!" through the new songs dealing with love and loss and the sad, shitty state of the world we're all slogging through. I especially enjoyed the "Box Elder" intro into one of their songs. Which one? I can't recall, but we should all be happy that, as the title song posits, "WE KID OURSELVES THERE'S FUTURE IN THE FUCKING, BUT THERE IS NO FUCKING FUTURE." And we collectively were, carried by Garreth's bright cheery vocals and Aleksandra's Elizabeth Elmore-ish countervocals and the band's perfectly timed chaos and even that one girl on the dance floor who never, ever stopped dancing.

After the lights came on, the band hung out and chatted and signed merch. Garreth is personable, charming, and as cheerful as the band sounds. Aleksandra is absolutely lovely and a bit shy (I mentioned my fondness for Elizabeth Elmore's Sarge and The Reputation). Tom, lead guitar and song writer, turned out to be a fellow Califone fan, so we had that, you know, irritating to anyone not in the know, whole nerd fan conversation.

4 comments:

George said...

I hate you.

I haven't had a band I capitulated to like LC! in years. Good to know they seem like good folks as well as great rockers. Did they do their "Frontwards" cover that there are poorly recorded versions of on Youtube?

Marty said...

No, they're only nod to Pavement was BE. Fans called out for it, but for naught. It was an excellent show.

Stan said...

dude Titus Andronicus is the most overhyped band ive ever heard. only a state like new jersey could ever be proud of them.... they got that one half decent song... which by the time they played made me fed up with the whole thing. had the campesinos not been next i would have walked out. the guys voice is just terrible...

to make it worse the venue was full of listless nyu kids wearing earplugs? who wears earplugs to a show ... ?? los campesinos were great.. and as part of going to live shows the ambiance is quite important... the crowd mostly was lame... there were a buncha kids in the front partying it up ... but couldnt get through to them till the end.

i hope this is just a bad venue...

Marty said...

Thanks for the comment, Stan. I don't know about the hype, because I hadn't heard of TA until the day of the show. They surprised me, and I like the cd I bought. I think if we eliminated "terrible voices" from rock, we wouldn't have Dylan, Waits, Reed, Malkmus, and too many others to mention. I liked his passion, but taste is taste and I won't argue with you. I loved the passion they showed in Florida.

Sorry the crowd was lame there. It was intimate in Jacksonville, and I didn't notice any earplugs. Los Campesinos! was wonderful, so we can at least agree there.