Margot & the Nuclear So and So's Friday, May 16, 2008 Larimer Lounge Better than: Getting food poisoning anytime.
Going to see a band you love when its touring in support of a brand new record -- or, in this case, in advance of one -- that you've yet to hear a note from is always a super dicey proposition. You run the risk of walking away from the show either completely elated or dejected, depending on how the new material hits you. Since being introduced to Margot a few years ago at South Park, I've been hopelessly smitten with The Dust of Retreat, the band's debut which is at least three years old now; the disc is still in heavy rotation for me. So needless to say, walking into Friday night's show, this notion weighed heavy on my mind.
Although I made it to the Larimer in time for Cameron McGill's set -- after a little pregame at the Meadowlark, of course -- I didn't actually get to see any of McGill or his Army. After an unseasonably chilly couple of days, I jumped at the chance to toss back a few PBRs on the patio. Only planned to be out there for a drink or two, but inevitably got sucked into several conversations -- the most intriguing of which was with Margot guitarist Andy Fry, who I was introduced to by, of all people, Isaac Slade from the Fray. The two are labelmates and have A&R dude/producer Mike Flynn in common. (Slade also introduced me to frontman Richard Edwards, but he was notably little less talkative, mostly, I'm guessing, because he was still feeling a little out of sorts after enduring food poisoning the night before thanks to a local Denny's.)
Anyhow, Fry and I had a great chat about the band's new record, Animal!, which he and his bandmates recently finished recording in Chicago. The group reportedly tracked twenty-five new songs, at least half of which will be issued later this year on vinyl with a download component. A friend of mine, through a friend of his who's close to the Margot camp, said there's a bit of negotiation going on right now between Epic and the band. The record Margot wants to release evidently sounds like "the new Radiohead," as he put it, while the other is decidedly more poppy. Fry eluded to something along those lines as he and I engaged in a dialogue about music in general these days, the whole process of making it on his end and writing about it on mine, and how fickle some fans can be, refusing to let their favorite artists evole as artists, and how no songwriter composes with the idea of any of the songs ending up on the cutting room floor. No one's eager to kill their darlings. That said, you got to hand it to Epic for going to the extra effort of actually pressing up vinyl, essentially getting all the music out there.
We also talked a bit about the preview I wrote a number of years ago on the band, in which I playfully chided whoever wrote the blurb in the South Park guide that year, listing them as "urban folk scarf rock," and how remiss I thought it was that the first big national press the band garnered after that -- a full page spread in CMJ -- was centered on discussing that preview and Edward's reaction to it. Lame. Here was an opportunity to introduce this fantastic band and that's what they chose to focus on?! Criminy. Oh well, I guess that's how things go. Writing about music is all about timeliness. You pick an angle and run with it, for better or worse.
Likewise, reviewing music is about being quick to the quip -- which has always seemed a bit incongruous to me: The way things are set up now, a critic is charged with digesting an album that took anywhere from three to six months to sometimes years to produce in a very short period of time and then expected to turn around and offer up an informed, insightful take. Problem is, those opinions are generally subject to change. Some of the best records take time to unfold and an emotional investment to ultimately embed itself into your consciousness. (I hated Kid A and panned it hard when it was released, and now it's one of my favorite records.) So all you're really getting with a review is a knee-jerk reaction to the aesthetics.
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With that in mind, you can take my thoughts on the new songs Margot played last night for they're worth: The songs were tuneful and pleasing enough, and I'm sure I may grow to love many of them at some point. But last night, as the band unveiled each new one, I waited patiently for them to finish, so I could hopefully hear older cuts like "Skeleton Key," "Vampires In Blue Dresses," "Dress Me Like a Clown" and "Quiet As a Mouse," the ones I already knew by heart and love unabashedly. And you know what? When they did get around to playing them, they sounded every bit as good to me as the first time I heard them. (It was also pretty awesome how the crowd added the "whoo" at the exactly the right moment during "Skeleton Key.")
But don't get it twisted. I'm not writing off the new songs, by any means; they just didn't instantly move me (although I have to admit, "Whiskey Jingle," which is playing right now in the background from the band's Myspace page sounds pretty kick ass to me as I write this). All the same, I'm eagerly looking forward to spending time with the new record. And as far as the band's performance last night is concerned -- fuck, dude, it's Margot! I've yet to see the band have an off night. Edwards, Fry and company were furiously on point as always, and the Larimer's sound -- if not its sight lines -- was great.
-- Dave Herrera
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Uh, did I mention that The Dust of Retreat is on constant repeat? Random Detail: No matter where you stand at the Larimer, you'll inevitably morph into a turnstile to those around you. By the Way: Margot will be back this fall for some Monolith related event or another. Oh, and in what seems like a throwback to ye olden days, Margot's actual website is updated more frequently and is more informative than its Myspace page.