Saturday, April 23, 2005

Les Trois Malheures - I Am the Greatest

There must be something in the Potomac water. Otherwise, I see no viable explanation for why every single band hailing Washington, DC specializes in guitar-driven slash-'n'-burn angularity. Perhaps everyone who saw Rites of Spring back in '85 never got over it, and those too young to have been present only want to recreate it for themselves.

Regardless, DC's place in rock history - as the Land of Furiously Energetic Skinny White Dudes Strangling Guitars - is secure. Not to say the quality of DC bands has been consistently high. For every band that becomes a musical milestone in undergound rock (e.g. Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, Jawbox, and currently Q And Not U), there are plenty of others who don't realize that obtusely political lyrics, stutter-stop-shred rhythms, and wiry guitar riffs alone do not legends make (e.g. Circus Lupus, Faraquet, Decahedron, Gist).

But what makes DC relevant to this day (beyond waiting for "the next Fugazi") are the Galapagos-like mutations that produce certain bands more twisted than cookie-cutter postpunk agit-pop, yet are a unique product of America's capital. The Dismemberment Plan, for example, were an electro-damaged dance-punk outfit that was more Brainiac than Bluetip, but they sported an awareness typical only of beltway insiders. Like all great mold-breakers, the Dismemberment Plan were largely ignored during their career, and only posthumously were recognized for how singular a band they were.

Also witness Les Trois Malheures. A short-lived band from the late '90s, Les Trois Malheures ("The Three Bad Hours") are a great example of a DC band that harnessed the energy and barbed-wire guitars of harDCore while rending it unfamiliar. The clattering percussion is only semi-proficient, while Jonathan Krienik's cartoonish bark is loud enough that you might miss the humour in a beanpole white guy claiming, "I'm not Cassius Clay, I'm Muhammed Ali!" Because humour and irony are scarcely found in DC bands' librettos, whenever they are used, it breathes new life into the municipal sound and keeps the music from becoming self-parodying ("I'm honestly very upset with where this country's headed!" a lot of DC bands seem to cry, a Blue state analog to moral majority alarmists).

So it's a pity Krienik's current band, Pines of Nowhere, forgoes the sloppy fun of Les Trois Malheures, opting to sound like, well, any other DC band. But evolution is a slow process. We'll recognize the next step when it comes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

pines of nowhere ceased to be winter of 2002. they said they sounded more like a chicago punk band.
les trois malheures actually plays a show for the first time since 98 tonight. kreinik and the champ probably weighed the same.