Watchers

To the Rooftops (Gern Blandsten)

Nothing's funnier than watching a room full of carefully uncaring, strategically mussed indie rockers trying to dance at a show. That is, trying not to dance, but trying to make it look like they are dancing. But only kind of. The symptoms are universal: the nodding heads, the half-hearted hip swivels, the rocking back and forth, the sly sidelong glances to see if anyone's watching them. You know... watching the watchers.

Chicago's Watchers play dance music -- thud-heavy, bowel-bumping dance music made, oddly enough, with guitars and bass and drums instead of PCs or 808s. The five members of the group appear to be as punctual and precise as the beats they create: They are all the exact same height; they tuck in their shirts and go to barbershops. They also seem to be some kind of weird disco freaks, if by "disco" we mean Gang of Four's Songs of the Free and A Certain Ratio's gay-cohabitation anthem "Shack Up." While contemporaries of Watchers, such as Liars and Radio 4, opt for a straight-up Xerox of post-punk's early-'80s heyday, To the Rooftopsis an anachronism that hasn't happened yet. Helixes of rhythm break apart and recombine as guitars slice away like laser scalpels, referencing some kind of genetically modified funk they'll be playing in the 23rd century. Singer Michael Makeout likes to twist his David Byrne-inflected warble into indecipherable Möbius-strip chants, offering great advice like "Ride thirty Panzers!" and "Don't love any younger!" (or something like that). Sometimes there are violins and trumpets. Sometimes the band is playing underwater. The constant, though, is the pulse-- that sucking, liquid gravity that swirls your innards into a maelstrom of pure dance energy. The blasé hipster population of America ought to be rounded up and stuck in a big stadium somewhere with nothing to watch but Watchers. That'll make 'em dance. It's either that or rip their toenails out.

 
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