The Christines and I'm a Boy at the hi-dive

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The Christines with I'm A Boy Saturday, December 6, 2008 hi-dive Better Than: Passing on seeing two of Denver's best bands on the same bill.

When I got to the hi-dive, I'm A Boy had just begun its set. As usual, it was pure, inspired rock and roll from the first song. The three-piece band was a little beefier than usual because Whitney Rehr was playing through an 8X10 Ampeg cabinet, but that only added to the incredible force with which the band plays.

With regard to its sound, as points of reference, you'd have to name early offerings from the Who and the Kinks from the '70s. All the same, this band has clearly outgrown its influences. Jimmi Nasi, formerly of the 40th Day, performs with every ounce of his being. We when he sings of doubt, love, melancholy and loss, it is with absolute conviction seen in the veins standing out in his neck and on his face. Obviously he's passionate about the music he's playing and it shows. Yet, never does his voice fall out of tone or fail to strike the perfect pitch - sonically and emotionally.

This time out I noticed how well Nasi uses wah to modulate guitar tone rather than as an excuse to wank off. The rhythm section was powerful and so spot on that it allowed for Nasi to get a little crazy from time to time, including during one song where the guitar cable came out and without missing a beat, Nasi plugged back in flawlessly with the song, coming in just in time for the next verse on the mike. With the muscular low end and Nasi's enthusiastic leaping about at moments of particular musical highs (the closer, "Angel" comes to mind), I'm A Boy proved a hard act to follow.

Fortunately, The Christines were up to the task. Throughout its set, various band members made self-deprecating comments about how they were a little loose and rough. I never saw the band during its 1990s heyday, so I have no basis of comparison, but I saw little or nothing that gave me that impression. Instead, I saw a band that may have been getting its legs back, one that had great songs to begin with.

The set began with "Hollow," a solid pop song with nicely textured guitar tones. But that was just the band warming up, and from then on out, the act never let up with a series of excellent songs. The beautiful tapestry of sound reminded me of those great Scottish and northern England bands of the '80s and early '90s, like the Pastels and the later era of the Sound -- shimmery, chimey and heart-tuggingly melodic.

The show was a great mixture of older songs, music from the band's latest record and songs that the guys said would be on their next record if they ever make one. During "The Cat," the two guitarists and Tim Hourigan, the bassist, created a kind of gigantic chord together -- a nice trick I don't hear often but which this band pulled off extremely well. An already impressive show ended with an old favorite, "In My Dead World." Hopefully the band doesn't take another twelve years to produce a follow-up to its latest record.

-- Tom Murphy

Critic's Notebook: Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the Christines since stumbling across the group's first two albums in a used bin. Random Detail: Ran into the Fluid's incredibly cool Ricky Kulwicki at the show. By the Way: The Christines' latest, Here It Comes Again, is its best yet.

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