Better than: Xanadu
It took me a while to identify what felt weird about the vibe at the Popscene club, tucked away in the dot-com-decadent heart of SOMA: was it the Saved by the Bell diner layout? The outrageously long wait for anything to happen? (In the promoters' defense, Florence of Florence and the Machine was slated to DJ but took ill at the last minute.) The 1970s roller-dystopia pseudo-porn on loop in the back? Finally it hit me: 18+. The Popscene club is an indie club, not an indie bar, and accordingly it spares itself the trouble of committing to a shtick. It's hip in a friendly, cozy way, like a Christian youth commune that puts on sick punk shows. There's an MC who calls acts to the stage and everything. Weird, but refreshing.
Glasser, which most of the time is just LA's Cameron Mesirow but last night was Cameron Mesirow and three jumpsuited technician-minions with glasses and dramatic hair, did not play like an act that wishes to be called to the stage. Glasser's debut album, Ring, has a very careful mystery to it, and the quartet took great pains to convey just that; it wasn't always successful, maybe because the painstaking arrangements were evidently Mesirow's alone and the other musicians had no evident emotional investment in them. For her part, Mesirow incanted and shimmied and kept needing more Jason in the monitors, even after a soundcheck that had lasted the better part of half an hour. This is a woman who wants things just so, and hard to fault her for it. Everyone knows control freaks make the best music.
But the momentum in Mesirow's songs is primarily vocal, and her investment in a live instrumentation setup paid off only some of the time. "Apply" came together seamlessly out of nothing, its insistent rhythmic pulse driving it forward, but "Home" -- by all accounts a similar song -- felt unrefined and dull. Some numbers were finely adorned, with cascading waterfalls and glittering baubles of sound, but flimsy underneath: heavy ornaments on slender Christmas tree branches. Others were simply better listened to than watched, their array of effects more compelling than the people making them. Points to Glasser for that being "people" and not "person," though -- points for making it a show, even if not all the parts are fully figured out. No points for ending the set unceremoniously after about 35 minutes, sans encore, leaving an enthusiastic crowd to pass the time by chanting about the Giants.Australia's PVT, who were called Pivot until a band from North Carolina with the same name threatened legal action, just released their third album and their third iteration of a personality. Their first album, Make Me Love You, is simple, warm post-rock. Their second, O Soundtrack My Heart, is the first album without the "simple" or the "warm," and sometimes without the "rock" -- jock jams for robots with a dark sense of humor. Their third, Church With No Magic, out in August on Warp, sounds like those robots trying to make a Grizzly Bear album. It's not that good, at first listen -- and I've only listened to it once -- and I came to the show already disappointed that they're now, you know, a band with vocals.
Motherfuckers sold me on it, though. Without disrupting their tightly wound, vaguely danceable instrumental dustups (there was even a drum solo at one point, and when was the last time you heard an actual drum solo? when was the last time you heard an actual drum solo at an 18+ show?), they've added voice as an instrument, and they use it just as deftly and audaciously as they use guitars and drums and samplers. Live, at least, this gives their songs a new post-punk kind of dimension, one with lots of phantom echoes and disembodied yawns, one that fits in perfectly well with the ongoing development of what was always there. Expect them to keep fixing what ain't broke, and hope they always pull it off as well as they did last night. Dig that -- Europe's bravest new nonconformists aren't even European.
Overheard and obviously about Glasser's swoop-tufted keyboardist: "His hair is killing it, by the way."