When did people stop dancing at electronic music shows? Because surely if there’s a pairing that warrants some major league writhing, pulling out all the moves — it’s Com Truise and STRFKR. But no; with a few notable exceptions, Thursday’s crowd just swayed a little and nodded their heads, and that was all. They could have been watching Kenny G.
Meh, what are you gonna do? There was, to be fair, a palpable air of excitement throughout the show, including when opening act Fake Drugs took the stage. The venue was still filling up and it was a bit weird because only Keil Corcoran (STRFKR drummer) was performing despite the incestuous nature of the inter-band-member-play between Fake Drugs and STRFKR. Corcoran pulled out some cool 1980s-style dark-wave reminiscent of the likes of the Psychedelic Furs and the Human League, polished with a contemporary edge.
Com Truise is something else entirely. While Seth Haley does share an '80s vibe with Corcoran, there are no obvious pop hooks in the Com Truise sound, nothing instantly accessible. No, this sounds like the score to a German experimental film. It sounds like somebody got inside Tangerine Dream and turned up the darkness. Not so much a Tangerine Nightmare, but certainly Tangerine Restlessness.
Despite the absence of an obvious melody, Haley’s use of synth is captivating, and there’s an otherworldly quality to his work that is hypnotic. The man himself refers to his style as mid-fi synth-wave, and that makes sense. He claims to be influenced by Joy Division, New Order and the Cocteau Twins, and that also makes sense because, while the synth isn’t played without joy, there’s an overwhelming darkness to the music — perhaps aided by a distinct lack of stage lighting, an atmosphere that took some getting used to.
Scratch the surface and keep digging though, and the underlying tune is revealed, though it’s still not pop. Com Truise takes some work by the listener, but he’s well worth it.
“Who’s ready to fuck some stars?” said a gentleman standing near us just prior to STRFKR taking the stage. “I’m gonna fuck about seven stars.”
That’s remarkably specific for somebody who, let’s face it, is fucking zero stars. Unless he meant it as a metaphor for enjoying the music of the band whose name his heinous imagery was based on. In that case, he might well have been banging until the group left the stage.
Portland’s STRFKR have the longest intro tape we’ve ever heard and, to make matters worse, it appears to be one, long, droning note. The damned thing goes on forever, like some sort of weird torture tactic. By the time the band joined us, we were ready to talk.
Here’s the thing with STRFKR though. The band looks great, and it has a whole lot of great song openers. Unfortunately, when the catchy synth intros have died down and it’s time to get into the meat-and-potatoes of the song, they’ve got next to nothing. They’re the ultimate tease and, without the payoff of a satisfying song, the live performance proves to be incredibly frustrating. Who knows? Maybe the band starts with a great idea for a song and then gets bored with it.
By the end, so were we. There’s nothing wrong with contemporary, bouncy, fun electronic pop, but don’t pretend. Don’t fake it. Your fans will only be fooled for so long.