Friday, November 17, 2006
Concert Review: The Strange Boys, Chief Death Rage, and Pink Spiders @ The Double Wide
The infectious melodies and tailfeather-shaking rhythms in their gritty-yet-tight pop songs make them one of the best of Dallas’ handful of ‘60s revivalist rock bands.
Forty years ago, the Dallas four-piece would have been an average band with an irritatingly toneless singer. They’d have gone nowhere unless they managed to squeeze out a payola-boosted novelty song. But the infectious melodies and tailfeather-shaking rhythms in their gritty-yet-tight pop songs make them one of the best of Dallas’ handful of ‘60s revivalist rock bands. Their refusal to play self-indulgent psychedelic jams and the absence of contemporary musical reference points make them unique compared to other area mod acts.
When I saw them a year ago, The Strange Boys were a raw-power garage-rock trio, with sloppy blues guitar licks that set them apart from other Dallas indie-rock bands. With the recent addition of keyboardist Greg Enlow, they sounded even more like the mid-‘60s mods they costume themselves as. Enlow’s blues piano on songs like “Who More Fitted or Right” and subtle organ flourishes on others blend perfectly with Matt Hammer’s funky, spastic drumming for a churning rhythms; the fact that nobody danced says more about the audience of self-conscious white hipster males than it does about the band. Ryan Sambol has toned down his distinctive ear-splitting screaming, and he’s moving away from the band’s earlier jagged, distorted guitar with cleaner, poppier tones for new songs like the slow-dance R&B number “Author Author.”
The band’s cover of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” was an appropriate closer. Sambol approximated the song’s signature organ melody on guitar while Enlow added tasteful organ chords in the background. They neither radically reinterpreted it nor stayed note-for-note faithful to the original. They just did it their way. Forty years ago, they’d have been just another rock band covering a recent pop hit. Friday night, in the shallowest city in Texas, in an indie-rock club decorated with redneck kitsch for the amusement of people who’ve never set foot in a real mobile home, it somehow sounded fresh.
Chief Death Rage’s opening set of sludgy stoner-metal was a nice start. Singer Aaron Marshal bashed out childishly simple drum parts while Orville Neely III and Shane English drowned out his reverb-soaked vocals with heavy, slow riffs.
While they struck some annoying generic punk-rock poses onstage, Nashville’s Pink Spiders weren’t as slick and polished as the high-calorie, zero-substance songs on their MySpace page hinted. But even if they weren’t the sickeningly radio-desperate poseurs I expected, their hook-filled pop-punk songs didn’t merit staying until the end.