Saturday, March 27, 2010

Detox Retox, Dum Dum Girls and Male Bonding at DC9

Over the last year or so, DC9 has become THE spot for catching up-and-coming bands before they make the leap to bigger venues. The club’s intimate layout, good sound and convenient location makes it one of the best places to see artists before they sell out the 930 Club or Black Cat. So when the opportunity to see Sub Pop rising stars Male Bonding and Dum Dum Girls came along, I figured “Eh, Why not.”

To conservative concertgoers, local openers Detox Retox could be seen as an odd fit on this bill. In my opinion, however, it would’ve been boring to see three bands that all looked and sounded the same. Detox play punk-pop that sounds like a mix between Silent Alarm-era Bloc Party meets the Police before everyone’s egos went out of control. Toss in a few flourishes of power-pop and the occasional gang vocal breakdowns and you get the kind of musical tension that guarantees that no two songs sound alike. Thursday night’s performance seemed very “on” for the lads, as they were all smiling and filled with energy. Singer Michael Parker was unusually charming, despite the fact that he’d been puking outside the club before load-in. The band is set to return to the studio in May,and I'm looking forward to hearing what they come out with next.

Dum Dum Girls came on stage around 9:50pm and begin their set with a haunting cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire.” But from there, things began to go downhill. A quick scan of the stage revealed no less than two Holy Grail pedals being used to wash the vocals in a sea of reverb. This misguided attempt to recreate 60’s studio techniques actually rendered the vocals inaudible. Even more tragic was the girls' paint by numbers approach to being a gang of late 1950s bad girls. Matching Silvertone 1448 guitars? Check. Super short skirts and ripped tights? Check. Frosty ‘tude towards the crowd? Double check. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with the wholesale appropriation of a certain look or being slightly detached on stage. But Dum Dum Girls lacked the songs and the chemistry to come off as really memorable. When they left the stage, I didn't feel anything. It was though I’d just attended some miserable excuse for a tribute show. Why this group is as feted as they are, I haven’t the faintest idea.

Male Bonding proved to be even more frustrating. Again, here was a blog buzz group wearing “cool” clothes and group playing nice looking gear (points for the vintage Fender Mustang Bass). But the overuse of reverb and lack of memorable melodies sabotaged any enjoyment that could’ve been drawn from Male Bonding’s performance. If you didn’t know anything about Sub Pop(or Rough Trade during the early to mid 80s), Male Bonding could maybe come off as a pretty cool band. But knowing what we know about the history of underground pop-music, Male Bonding (or Bondage, as the Dum Dums insisted on calling them) come off as painfully unoriginal. See here, lads, messthetics are bullshit if you don’t stand for anything. And there are few things more irritating than a trio of Englishmen with nothing to say. Shame on USCIS on approving these guys for P-Visas and letting them into the country!