Saturday, February 18, 2006


Marco Mirror, road warrior and silver Ox

Where have I been? For crying out loud, I've got more important things to attend to than the internet. Yeesh.

Anyhoo, it's approaching the One-Year Anniversary of my amicable split from Baltimore, but I've already made one return journey to my domicile of almost a decade. Reverse culture shock rocked me, the food was like swallowing a butter stick soaked in sugar, and TV made me apopleptic, but as always, Baltimore amazed me with its music scene. 2005 was a particularly fertile year, as Charm City produced two of the finest full-lengths and the best EP I heard last year. Observe...

"Foxes" - The Celebration
(from their eponymous debut)

When Birdland rose phoenix-like from the embers of Love Life, the husband-and-wife duo wowed Baltimore crowds with their sweaty postpunk approach to Tin Pan Alley caberet. But there's only so much propulsion a band can accomplish without a full-time percussionist. Re-enter two Davids: former Love Lifer Bergander sat back down behind the kit, and Mr. Andrew-Sitek (of avant-popsters TV On the Radio) manned the boards to produce the debut of the newly-christened Celebration. Like all their previous incarnations, the band cannot escape comparison to that Dark Prince of Troubadours, Nick Cave, but Ford's melodramatic bellow remains a singularly hypnotic instrument. However, I wish you the best of luck in ignoring the wholly incohesive guest appearances by the individual members of TVOTR, as if those rocking Bono-specs and a Mars Volta-approved afro could be anything other than tactless attention hounds.

"Duty. Duty? Duty." - More Dogs
(from Never Let Them Catch You Crying)

More Dogs is almost too good to be true: three lanky dudes in sweaters, who looked cherry-picked from other ethnically-diverse indie acts, playing tense indie interpretations of Morriconean experimenal film noir scores on an oddball assortment of instruments. In other words, they're a walking manifestation of Hip - which, de facto, also means that they're a little less interesting than their components imply. But unlike almost every other contemporary indie act, More Dogs manage to exhibit restraint. There's no melodic melodrama, histrionics that border on sociopathy, or genre dress-up. More Dogs refuse to show their hand; their tells have to be spotted in sly peeks over the menacing hum of an organ. They throw their chips on the table with sudden drama, like the Varese-esque clatter the opens this song, while the the drummer's stomp puts the bark in this beast. Come closer, but watch your hands. This music does not seek your affection.

"Afri-Cola" - OXES
(from the Oxes EP)

In that mythical battle of infernal animals, I'd put my money on this six-limbed, tricranial taurine monster than a mangey mutt any day. Of course, the truth is that we may have to wait until the next world to see OXES again, now that Nattarino is shacked up somewhere in Italy whilst his bandmates remain in Baltimore. Good of the lads not to leave us with a whimper: the five searing tracks on the Oxes EP reaffirm the trio's legacy as the most unabashedly fun of the angular American instrumental rock bands. Most impressive is the final track, "Afri-Cola." While all the other tracks were recorded live to two-track in the band's practice space, this epic piece of death disco was pieced together in Reason. "We didn't really have a song," guitarist Marco Mirror told me, "we just had the riffs." The result is a Dance-Punk masterpiece in which the equation is truly balanced, instead of merely scruffy guitar-dudes with eyeliner playing house beats. Not that any self-respecting indie-kid would actually dance to this song: the signals are too blurred as they race by, with little obvious instruction betrayed in the chaos. Not the first (or, hopefully, last) time OXES have outsmarted the audience.

In Other News:: Camera 1, Camera 2. Is everything in New York City so bloody special that it needs to be documented so rigorously? Also: this is hysterical and heartening, while this is proof there is no god.

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