ALIEN CRIME SYNDICATE
Graceland, 381-3094, $8 adv.
8 p.m. Wed., July 10, all ages
I want music that makes me envious for what I can't have, bitter for what I've lost, violent for what I can't avenge. I want the cacophonic, soul-crushing sonic complement to aloof undergraduates in long denim skirts, smirking through a force field of cigarettes and vodka. I want fragility to slip testosterone the tongue, maybe even a finger, with darkness and intellect insatiably fumbling for quarters outside of the booth.
I don't want music to make me traditionally happy. I wish pain upon songs that compel me to strap on a helicopter beanie and minimosh with the TRL nursery.
Yet, I'm inexorably, inexplicably drawn to Alien Crime Syndicate, a local pop-rock quartet that pretty much sounds like Andrew W.K. beating out Hanson covers on his pectorals. They opened an entire tour for fucking Sugar Ray at fucking Six Flags theme parks and loved every fucking corporate second of it. Most of what they do is 180 degrees contrary to my (ahem . . . ) aesthetic, and I have the audacity to tell you that ACS don't simply rock; they rawk.
It's really better for all parties if, as usual, I don't try to intellectualize this.
Nabil Ayers is ACS' drummer. His sideburns introduce the rest of his body to every room he enters, a nifty contrast to his bandmates' shoulder-length Fabio-meets-Cobain shags. He laughs sweetly and easily. Jeff Rouse is the bassist. In the half-hour I spend with these two at a Fremont coffee joint, Rouse not only rushes to the aid of a barista who inadvertently topples a trash can, but when a copy of The Stranger blows off of an adjacent table, he scoops up every page (presumably to wipe his ass with later. YEAH! You guys: 10,000. Us: 1).
Peace sells, and I guess everybody's buying. If the Syndicate's recent set at the Fremont Fair smacks of normalcy, the kids—more accurately, the children—are down for life. Listening to Ayers and Rouse's energized anecdotes about thousands of little bastards getting off to ACS at the E4 Exhibition Center concert in March, I can't resist a smile.
"This kind of town, it's a big enough place that we've been a band for four years, and still you can play for people that have never even heard of you," Rouse says. "It's this bridge-and-tunnel crowd, these people from wherever—Granite Falls, Kent, Enumclaw; the only view into music that they have is MTV2 or The End."
"They don't know we've played the Crocodile five billion times," Ayers laughs. "Those crowds are fun to play for."
"I'm so into that," Rouse gushes. "Those are the kids that are really appreciative of the rock. They'll lose it, because they don't have any pretensions."
"There's kids that walk up to [the merchandise table] and we'll have a piece of vinyl sitting there, and they'll go, 'What is this? What do you do with it?' For real! They don't know what a record is, but they know the guys who get up there and go [imitates DJ scratching]. We're kind of venturing into places where you still get surprised every day."
For once, the kids are, indeed, all right. A typical ACS song charges out of the gate with a preposterously catchy rock riff, tacks on a preposterously catchy harmony, then blooms into the kind of balls-to-the-wall chorus that just renders your brain obsolete. Onstage, Joe Reineke straddles the mike with stoner-stud aplomb, and guitarist Mike Squires punctuates nearly every transition with a midair cannonball. Everybody switches places and strikes Metallica poses for flighty sing-alongs like "Break the Record" and "Ya Blink It's."
Good times. Buckle not thy white belt, rogue.
"We're definitely not the 'classic Seattle band,'" Ayers shrugs. "I think it's great. We're probably the only band that takes a light show into the Crocodile."
The aforementioned Sugar Ray/ Six Flags tour fascinates me, if only because of Mark "Rock & Roll Jeopardy" McGrath's cameo in the notorious, bologna-flinging Backstage Sluts pornos. Unfortunately, Ayers and Rouse ain't dishing any debauchery. Why would they? The tour afforded them free access to tons of roller-coaster rides, not to mention all-important cutsies in those Great Wall of China lines.
"Those guys are so cool—to the fans, to the crowd, to us, to the crew," Rouse says. "And they were good, too. We wanted to watch them every night."
"Three-part harmonies all over the place," Ayers raves.
They utter these statements with such undeniable sincerity that I dumbly nod and grin. Then I bus home, flog myself, and do my rosary. Then I put in an ACS CD and perform the Jennifer Beals Flashdance aerobic-strip. There's absolutely nothing to read between the lines here.