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Cary Brothers @ Soiled Dove Underground, 7/21/07

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Cary Brothers with Mother Mother and Stars of Track and Field July 21, 2007 The Soiled Dove Underground Better than: The Doobie Brothers Slide Show Made it to the Soiled Dove just as Mother Mother was wrapping up its set and heard just enough to form a vague impression of the act’s sound. The sweet girl-girl-guy harmonies meets quirky, off-kilter rock evoked They Might Be Giants in a roller-derby bout with Shonen Knife. It was intriguing enough to inspire a second look down the road.

Stars of Track and Field was up next and played a surprisingly rocking set -- suprising for a band named after a song by twee-pop maestros Belle and Sebastian. The Portland-based three-piece offered up a delightful mix of poppy song craft and rocking guitar goodness that had more people on their feet than either Mother Mother or Cary Brothers. On the other hand, as enjoyable as the set was, I can’t remember a single song, hook or lyric, or anything beyond the chunky, anthemic guitars, driving beats, sweaty excitement and hot rock action -- not that there’s anything wrong with that. So what if the songs didn’t stick in my head? The performance was awesome.

When Cary Brothers took the stage, the energy level dropped notably, even though the song quality increased. Brothers put his warm, slightly husky voice and straightforward acoustic guitar playing to good use on a set of material that married his Nashville singer-songwriter roots to his childhood influences – namely the Cure, the Smiths, New Order and hordes of other like minded acts. The mixture worked pretty well, and Brothers showed it off to good effect during his set with covers of “If You Were Here,” by the Thompson Twins, and “Skyway,” by The Replacements, along with “The Last One” a song he called a tribute to those new wave bands he grew up with.

Other standout tracks included “Jealousy,” the opening track from his recent full-length, and “Blue Eyes,” his hit from the Garden State soundtrack. The rest of his set was uniformly pleasant, if less immediately arresting. Brothers also displayed a good sense of dynamics, with songs that ranged from whisper-quiet intimacy to full-on rocking – well, as rocking as fairly restrained, folk rock can get. Overall, the performance was solid and his patter between songs was engaging and humorous; his charisma, some strong material and a solid performance from Brothers and company made for a fine night out.

-- Cory Casciato

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I have a hard time really connecting with singer-songwriter material I don’t know well, but Brothers managed to get through. Random Detail: Brothers got big laughs by relating an anecdote about Patrick Swayze’s penis. By the Way: Stars of Track and Field stole the night in a lot of ways. I’ll be grabbing their album.

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