UGLY CASSANOVA, LES SAVY FAV, DE FACTO
Graceland, 381-3094, $10 adv. 9:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 17 all-ages show 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 18
EXHIBITIONS OF dead birds, paintings of soup cans, carnival balloons pushed through midnight air and captured in trees, empty rooms stained with radio fuzz-plenty of things get filed under modern art. So why not rock music? From Talking Heads to King Crimson to Destroy All Monsters, Sonic Youth, Six Finger Satellite, and C- Average, a careful, studied measure of creative ambition added to rock's essential drive gets you a third, transcendent species.
Where modern art meets modern rock—and where the two merge like cream in coffee and approach perfection—is Les Savy Fav's recently released fourth full-length, Go Forth. Noticeably marked by the detail-oriented hand of producer Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill), Go Forth combines delicacy and dynamics, poignancy and punk. Often cinematic, chaotic, and comforting within the same four minutes, Go Forth goes beyond the dissonant art-school clamor of the band's earlier releases into a far cleaner version of cacophony. While that leap forward has some longtime fans blasting their copies of 3/5 (LSF's 1997 debut) in protest, plenty are overjoyed to listen as the Brooklynites march loudly into the vast nether regions of sonic escapism.
From the band's temporary tour outpost in Cleveland, drummer Harrison Haynes was only too happy to address—over the outbursts of bandmates Tim Harrington, Seth Jabour, and Syd Butler—the left turn taken on their new release.
"(The new record) is a different outcome of a different project. It's not any kind of insistence on our part to move in any direction as a band, more just like trying a new medium or a new way of making something. So it has a different texture, a different feel. We sort of built the songs up in a way that actually wasn't very polished. It was sort of like making a collage," Haynes says.
The band had used less-is-more recording methods with great results, so when Ek approached them, their initial reaction was that the partnership wouldn't make much sense. Fast-forward past some carefully plotted second thoughts to the finished product, and the preliminary preempt becomes a remarkably recorded record.
"A lot of the character of the album comes out of a good kind of collision between us and him," says Haynes. "The ways that it was incompatible as a team-up is where the good stuff happened."
Good stuff, indeed. Former Rhode Island School of Design students, Les Savy Fav paint their rock with the kind of brutal guitar poetry that can only arise out of caffeine-fueled confluence and the tossing off of textbooks. Where contemplative theories toy with noisy electronics, elliptical phraseology, and bits and pieces of D.C.'s ardent hardcore, N.Y.C.'s rhythmic palpitations, and the U.K.'s new/no wave, Go Forth exhibits tuition money well spent. So if their individual endeavors (illustration, design, film, painting, and, in the case of bassist Butler, running the label Frenchkiss) ever fall short of reaching the satisfying crescendo inherent in the bass/drums/ guitar combo, their unified efforts can be called upon to exact that energy wonderfully. In discussing how a live rock show can be a riotous and beautiful expression of art, Haynes defers to Kleenex/Lilliput guitarist Marlene Marder, who has said that her band's late '70s punk grew out of a frustration at the inaccessibility her bandmates' separate creative pursuits faced.
"I like what Marlene Marder said because yeah, being in a band is a great opportunity to make a superaccessible and engaging art project," says Haynes. "I think it's cool to look at music as a really populace kind of art."