Sunday, December 13, 2009

Versus / Soft Power at Black Cat DC 12/12/09

Soft Power is sort of a late 80's "Underground" power / art / guitar band - Nice Strong Arm, Music From Elba, late 80's Sonic Youth but as if rewritten by some German art rock band from the early 80's. The band is fronted by the guitarist and guitarist/bassist who offer male/female vocal tradeoffs on the songs. The drummer ties this band together - innovative beats and knows the songs better than the others. There's a keyboardist who generally provides background with occasional riffs thrown in - I kind of like it when the keyboardist knows how to take the backseat.
The band does some interesting stuff with odd measures. I counted one songs that appeared to be in 15/8 and another that veered from 6/8 to 4/4. The drummer never stumbled on any of this. A band to continue to watch over the next few months.

Versus are a mid-90's to late 90's Teen Beat/Merge who (I think) were once local to DC but now live in Brooklyn and aren't really a "functioning" (touring) band anymore but are putting together a new set of songs. They've got guitar, bass, violin/keyboardist, drummer. They added a fifth member halfway through the set - I think he was covering bass but couldn't really see from my vantage point.

The pros for this band is that half their tunes are an interesting take on post-punk - where the "punk" part is defined as garage punk (so I guess its post-garage punk). These songs (and I can't name them) shimmer and throw in exciting twists at the genre. Richard Balyut (the nerdy lead), while not exactly a likable prescense onstage, does best when he's mixing/harmonizing vocals with the competent female bassist (Fountaine Topps?).

However, the other half of their stuff seems too 90's indie rock and antiquated. The thing is I don't know enough about their music to tell whether this was the old stuff or the new stuff. I'm thinking it was the old stuff I didn't like.

The problem with this band is the drummer. He doesn't know the meaning of loosen up. A kid playing pots and pan in the kitchen plays with infinitely more joy and ease than he does. It's in the wrists man - feel the beat, be the beat, it's like you are trying to hunt and kill the beat. Being as the drummer is the lead's brother I don't see them changing up anytime soon.

Like I implied above, I didn't really "get" the lead singer. He's kind of a nerd who thinks he's cool and I just find that, well, annoying to watch onstage (I don't like Carrot Top either). Judging from my +/- CD collection, Richard Balyut may be better suited for studio work than live appearances.

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