Vonnegut, The Frequent Sea and Stars of Track and Field October 17, 2007 The hi-dive Better than: My usual weeknight plan of quietly drinking myself into oblivion – but only barely.
Kurt Vonnegut, the writer, was incisive, witty, brilliant and unique. So I expect a lot – a lot—from a band named Vonnegut. It did not deliver. The sound was a generic, bland, middle-of-the-road mélange of emo mixed with what passes for hard rock these days. The songs weren’t much better, offering little or nothing in the way of innovation, expression or hooks. The performance was kind of sloppy, but seemed heartfelt. There were a few odd moments that stood out: a guitar tone here, a soulful, bluesy riff there, the chorus of one song. If Vonnegut can tighten up, write some better songs and jettison the bland “hey, we’re a rock band in the first decade of the 21st century” sound in favor of honing in on those rare sparks of originality, it may have a future. Faint praise, perhaps, but any port in a storm, right boys?
If Vonnegut suffered from a name that raised expectations sky high, the Frequent Sea suffered from a dreadful pun of a name that left a bad taste in my mouth. The group did a much better job with a tight, rocking blend of a wide range of heavy art rock influences. A fair chunk of Tool, a touch of Helmet, some Misfits for flavor and maybe a splash of Blue Öyster Cult for good measure. It wasn’t earth-shakingly original, but it had an edge and it didn’t put me to sleep. It could have used more sounds from the awe-inspiring monster keyboard on stage, maybe some more BÖC influence (why don’t more people realize how awesome BÖC was?), and this is definitely a band in need of a name change, but it wasn’t too bad if you like your music heavy, arty and a little weird.
Finally, Stars of Track and Field took over. I’d seen them before and enjoyed them. When I checked out their album, I was left nonplussed, but the songs really come alive on stage. An easy-to-like blend of Brit-pop, classic rock and shoegaze influences powered by two guitars, two vocalists and the occasional influx of some keyboards, Stars of Track and Field sound like an American, indie rock version of the Stone Roses that’s spent too long listening to Jesus and Mary Chain records. That’s not a bad thing. They are captivating, charming performers, and their material really shows its strength in a live setting. If they can capture that feeling on the next record, I’ll buy the thing and sing its praises to the heavens. If not, I’ll still go see them next time they are in town. – Cory Casciato
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: In my opinion, if you’re traveling a well-known musical road, you better be pretty fucking spectacular or you’ll earn nothing but scorn from me. Random Detail: The hi-dive has some really weird shit on its walls, which kept me amused until the bands started playing. By the Way: Did I mention I like Blue Öyster Cult? A lot?