04 December 2006

Show review: Margot & the Nuclear So and So's

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's / Dirty on Purpose
Category: Music

It was good to be back in town after a Thanksgiving week long trip back to my old Kentucky home. I still had to shed the sensation that I was moving on a train. I did not quite feel like I'd arrived. Not yet. I really wanted to get out to hear a good show and set things right again, so I was super happy to hear that Margot & the Nuclear So and So's were going to be pulling into town in their big black school bus again, stopping at the Larimer Lounge for another Denver show. And although this made the fourth time I've seen them this year, (and the third time at the Larimer) it was nothing old hat. I like this band. Obviously.

On tour with Margot & the Nuclear So and So's is Dirty on Purpose…that name makes me crack up. It is kinda funny in a simple and clever way, and that's fun. But I can't say I had more fun past the name. Listening to them wasn't that bad…they are not incompetent musicians or playing terrible music. But truth is I can't remember a single song. I only remember thinking that it seemed like they had listened to Joy Division or Franz Ferdinand maybe a lot and although I like those bands, this one wasn't making songs inspired by that stuff into anything I could begin to feel good about. Dirty on Purpose, and the first band of the evening whose name I totally forgot, both made me think about how very many bands there are out there, and how many guys have a Fender guitar in their living room and how many people are trying to make songs. And that's all cool with me. Really it is. People need to make stuff and be creative in the ways that move them. I get that. But like background chatter, nothing moving is added to the conversation. And sometimes I just don't want to listen. Yeah, I was tired and waiting for the band I wanted to hear to come on. But still, these openers really didn't make my night.

As I was waiting for Margot to play I thought about how my neice Tina says Margot writes essential break-up songs, you know the stuff your best friend puts on a mix tape to help you get over it all. And she's right, you know, with lyrics like "I miss you less and less every day / it's true the whiskey's had to wash you away / and it's clear to see / you're nothing special / you're a skeleton key." But that's only part of it. Great break up lyrics are not why I like Margot. I like them because they write good songs. I listen to this stuff pretty often, and the eight member band plays them better every time I see them. This past Wednesday they were unfortunately plagued with some mysterious buzzing and crackling from the bass, which tested the limit of singer/songwriter Richard Edwards' patience. He kept his cool… kinda. But just barely. But while the sound guy was trying to fix the problem percussionist Casey (you gotta check the dance moves on this kid) and trumpeter Hubert and the violinist/lap steel player Jesse Lee filled in the down time gaps with some improvisational music and storytelling that showed big time professionalism and kept the technical difficulties from halting the show. Partly they just pushed through it and played over the trouble.

Margot has gotten a lot of good press this year. Although the Larimer Lounge was pretty full, I've seen it much fuller and I thought there'd be more people at the show. I saw them talked about in SXSW, saw them in Harp and Paste magazine (who had their video on their dvd sampler.) Locally I've seen them written up in The Denver Post and there's even more. So with all that big talk you wonder how it'll affect a band. Sometimes it makes pressure that crushes a band to the point where they seem afraid to make a mistake and they come out with some watered down version of what everybody liked in the first place and it's all disapointing. But sometimes a band's beyond that, and for whatever reasons they get better. And I was glad to see evidence of this on Wednesday.

The first time I saw them, just this past January, they only had four songs on a disc and Hubert had told me that they were about to release their full length "The dust of retreat" on Artemis Records. "They're new" he said of their label. In fact at that time J. Mascis was their only label mate. Which I thought was pretty cool. I also learned then that these people all live together in the same house in Indianapolis when they are not touring and although I am amazed that nobody has killed anybody else yet, the togetherness really shows. No, not in a cloying way but in way that they don't seem like they ever stop playing together and work together in a synchronous way. They look like they are playing for fun. The new songs were exciting in that they really seem to be getting even better. That one… I didn't catch the name but I think it is tentatively titled "Payphone" (click here for Denton TX vid by Christie) ...Richard pulled out his Gretsch for it and it blew more than just me away… I can tell you now that people will be wanting to hit the repeat button on that one. Yay. And you know the best part? I finally felt like I'd arrived home.

Currently listening :
The Dust of Retreat
By Margot & the Nuclear So and So's
Release date: 28 March, 2006

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