Tuesday Nov. 29th, 2011
There are basically two types of Total Control songs: the minimal synth jams (a la Adult.'s Ersatz>"/>
Tuesday Nov. 29th, 2011
There are basically two types of Total Control songs: the minimal synth jams (a la Adult.'s Ersatz Audio label or Seattle-bred synth punk pioneers the Screamers), and the wire-taut punk guitar stomps--both types abrasive and droney, with the vocals drenched in reverb. Live, the Australian group concentrates pretty exclusively on the latter, so if you came hoping for the killer "Paranoid Video," like the girl whose shouted request for the song before the band's final number went coldly ignored, you were out of luck. Honestly, it was "Paranoid Video" and the songs like it--"Retiree" or the bass synth lock-groove "Pyre Island"--that got me to last night's show, but I wasn't exactly expecting it; live footage of the band shows them squarely in the punk mode, and a friend of a friend on FB wrote of a recent Total Control show, "There was a Casio on stage, but no one touched it." The good news though is that Total Control's punk songs also rule hard.
And to be fair, the band did touch the synth they had set up on stage; on three or so songs,singer Daniel Stewart (tall, handsome, given to gloomily staring down the audience during the instrumental parts) would play a little keyboard part for the bridge, but it was hardly their driving force. Stewart introduced the band with an "oi, "oi mic check and thanked the crowd with a politely Australian "chee-ahs," and when he wasn't singing or glaring, he was headbanging slowly on the one beats or leaning hard on his microphone stand, pitching in to the band's overall vibe of half Joy Division drone and gloom, half rigid hardcore pummel.
The Intelligence's Lars Finberg joined them for the final gang chorus of "One More Tonight," with its catchy, almost surfy guitar lead (their second song, one of the band's two gutiarists was already peeling off a broken string halfway through it). They played their title track, "Total Control," a fast-barrelling theme song with a jabbing, piercing dual guitar part. They played one song with an intense stop-start beat that looked like a punishing song for a drummer, although theirs nailed it. Best by far though was third to last song "Carpet Rash," a longer mid-tempo number with another great guitar lead and a synth part on the chorus that the band glided willfully out of stereo tuning last night. I came still hoping for the synthy version of Total Control, but I left totally in love with the punk version.
Fine SF garage freaks Thee Oh Sees headlined, but the Oh Sees play here about six times a year (they were literally just here two months ago), and anyway Total Control seemed like the band a lot of folks were most excited to see. About 2/3s of Sub Pop was there, and rumor has it it was largely to check out the Australian openers--and with good reason; i mean, these guys could be the next Pissed Jeans! Ka-ching.
(Fun fact: whatever Sub Pop's level of interest, Total Control's debut LP Henge Beat is already out on an awesome local label, the slightly crustier Iron Lung Records.)