On this unseasonably warm December night in the Dirty South, two roving groups of unscrupulous carpet-baggers hosted an exhibition of rock’n'roll musical vim and vigor that will hopefully prove to have had a resuscitative impact upon this city’s moribund joke of a rock-jive scene. In most regards, including both matters musical and showmanship related, the Apes and Les Savy Fav each present viable modes for rock glory, arguing implicitly that, despite the claims of many a blowhard and the lifeless demonstrations by much of today’s dispiriting rock groups, the fucking beautiful and ridiculous retardation of rock is not yet extinct.
Bands young and old alike can look to the terribly amazing shenanigans of both the Apes and Les Savy Fav to find routes out of the stultifying doldrums that have long plagued the rock markets of Atlanta and, to a lesser degree, the whole damn world at large. Yeah! But let’s look at each group separately, now, why don’t we. The Apes (of Washington, DC) have a love-hate relationship with the skulls of their audience. Without skulls, their audience would most likely not exist, and yet the Apes attempt to bash the hell out of them anyway. You’d think they would recognize this fundamental quandary, being oh so clever rock stars and all, but really, nobody ever said apes were intelligent or anything. But yes, these Apes overpowered the gradually growing listening audience with their sludgy power-swamp-rock, coming off like a Screamers – Sonics – Swingin’ Medallions genetic mix-up from the wrong side of the Potomac.
Their no-guitar rock compositions, as featured on the splendid debut LP The Fugue in the Fog (Frenchkiss Records), get their ferocity quotient upped significantly when performed in a live setting. The bass player banged on his distorted li’l missus, apparently playing musical notes, and spraying forth a thick lather of the heavy amniotic fluid of right-minded rock. The organist and drummer added heft and gravitas to this stew, providing a solid underpinning of craziness just tempered enough for the singer-man to occasionally shout over in between posing and prancing about. This singing fellow’s bursting forth butterfly-like from a sleeping bag after song one, resplendent in wool cape and sunglasses, reminded this on-looker of that day in fucking History when that peculiar she-gypsy first informed young Theodore Roosevelt of the monumental reputation he would gradually forge in the sacrosanct realm of international dock-walloping. Just as at that moment anyone with eyes that saw and cried and loved could tell that these fiery-maned young upstarts have what it takes to be brilliantly misunderstood, and embarrassingly overlooked.
So the Apes finished up and moved their equipment off the stage and then got off the stage themselves and went into the back or to the bathroom or merchandise counter or wherever and graciously conceded the spotlight to their tour-mates and label-bosses Les Savy Fav. Les Savy Fav are the Oregon Vortex. They’re the disappearance of David Lang and the Polleys of Dakota and the cop statue at Haymarket Square and the Long John Silver’s parking lot in which Leo Frank was strung up for being all sorts of non-Southern. They tell you what you think you should think about them and then tell you that what you think is wrong. They smile and look you in the eye while stealing your little girlfriend. They date a former Harley Spaulding. They never give it to you straight but they’re never anything less than utterly sincere. Or maybe not, I don’t know, I just know they make good music sometimes, and occasionally take to the Dwight D. Eisenhower roadway system to perform this good music in the presence of old strangers.
So Les Savy Fav sauntered out and played their rock instruments in an enjoyable fashion, utilizing them to construct before my very senses rock songs of an unusual quality and of generally surprising construction. They lead one to expect one thing, and then deliver another, superior thing. Let’s make the Pere Ubu reference, not so much in sound per se as in intelligent confusion-mongering and high-concept front man antics.
Give LSF’s singer the edge in nigh-embarrassing yet awesomely entertaining tomfoolery; however; recall Dave Thomas’ erudition and distinctive vocalizing, breed it with Bob Pollard’s on-stage rock generalship, and then add a penchant for floor-based populist interaction, and you’ll have a very bare-bones mental approximation of Tim Harrington’s memorable and commendable method of working the crowd. He makes like Bono at Red Rocks in a smoke-filled, beer-streaked backroom in front of a hundred people, holding aloft the bloody red flag of fill-in-the-blank symbolism, and marching embarrassingly enough to not be embarrassed. He is quite simply incredible. Of course, his shenanigans could not glow were it not for the top-notch tune-smithery of this band-mates. Choosing a good mix of songs old and new, from their latest LP Go Forth, their fantastic Rome (Written Upside Down) EP, and back to their earlier releases, the group’s music stands apart from most similarly branded independent rock organizations. Frequently minimal in terms of musical “business,” these songs tend to impress with their unusual arrangements and general stick-to-it-ive-ness. Les Savy Fav sounds quite unlike most bands, and even the groups that could be viewed as sporadically accurate comparisons – such as Pere Ubu, Fugazi, or Polvo – don’t exactly fit
snugly into the role. Les Savy Fav are unique for this day in age in that they are a rock group that creates unique yet decidedly rocking rock music. They also kick the ever-lovin’ shit out of Radiohead.
So yes, overall, this pairing of rock ‘n’ roll bands led to a wholly satisfying experience. In a god-damned crazy world so fucked up people can’t even make good rock music anymore, the impact and importance of this show is increased almost past the breaking point. On this one gleaming night, we good people of Atlanta actually had good-looking bands to watch and good music to listen to while getting drunk for no good reason. And really, there’s little else one could ask for these days. So forgive one man his humble opinion and his unnecessary verbal extravagances, and witness these groups in person whenever they play your local bingo hall or dank flooded basement. Thank you.