Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tonight I'm in between days

Last night I had the pleasure of joining my dear friend and new music guru Kevin to go see Swedish darlings Shout Out Louds at Spiegel World down in the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. I enjoyed their first album, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, in 2005, and I'm really enjoying their lead-off single 'Tonight I have to leave it' from their upcoming album Our Ill Wills, so I was definitely interested to see them perform. This is a somewhat rare opportunity, too; Shout Out Louds haven't been in New York City for at least a couple years, and they only have four shows here in the US this time around.

Spiegel World is a charming little venue, and a really intimate setting for a live show, which was fantastic, because the die-hard fans were the vast majority of the audience. Vast may not be the right word; I wished for S.O.L's sake that there were a few more in attendance, but I've heard that their show tomorrow night in Brooklyn is sold out. No matter; they sounded great, and they were very appreciative of our presence and enthusiasm.

They work very well together, and they are not the type of group to make a show of things; rather, they seem to be quite unaffected on stage. They hit the obvious selections from Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, and a handful of newer tracks; in many cases the live versions were quite faithful to the recordings, but benefited from some extra energy. It was nice, too, that they carted a bunch of secondary instruments across the ocean; little things like maracas and xylophone definitely make a difference. We were sad to hear mid-show that the accordion had broken in transit...

I feel this is my best opportunity to weigh in on the small stir that's gone around about 'Tonight I have to leave it'. The similarities that song bears to Cure's 'In between days' are, well, almost everything: tribal drumming, driving strummed guitar, soaring instrumental melody carried by something that sounds like a marimba, and singer Adam Olenius who sounds more than a little like Robert Smith on most songs, not just this one. The chord progressions are quite similar, too.That said, I'm reluctant to characterize this as a rip-off. It's more appropriate to view it as a skillful homage. There are so many similarities that it must be intentional, but they have written new lyrics which, though distinct, one quite easily could imagine Robert Smith writing. I have the impression that they've studied 'In between days' and taken the time to make it their own. There is an authenticity to 'Tonight I have to leave it' - helped considerably by the fact that it's a good, fun song - that makes it seem hopeful that one would compare it to 'In between days' and grateful to be considered in such good company. It also helps that S.O.L. have an established track record of admirable music that is less explicitly influenced.

This imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, in the same vein as Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini, if that's not overstating the case. Oh hell, it's a fun song and Shout Out Louds do it really well live.

Shout Out Louds' official website