Pulses at the Rendezvous

Ten minutes into Calvin Lee Reeder’s 15-minute flick Piledriver, which took the place of a second band Friday, July 9, at the Rendezvous’ Jewel Box Theater, I was getting pretty nervous. Not for the usual reasons that one gets nervous when watching Reeder’s other movies, like Polterchrist and Jerkbeast—I was nervous because Piledriver was so sweet and goofy. You don’t expect romantic comedy from Reeder, who is known to most as the geometrically gifted bass player of the Popular Shapes and the Intelligence. As a director, Reeder trades in farcical gore and bowling-alley humor, so where were all the slain deities and stupid gags? Where was the blasphemous bloodletting—oh shit! Never mind. Forget I even asked. Piledriver does what Reeder’s other movies have done: It creeps you out, cracks you up, and makes you feel a little sick, and it does all that better, more succinctly, and with more charm and jolting alarm than his others. Damn good wedge to drive between rock bands, too.

As the Pulses began to take the stage half an hour later, there was still a palpable sense of shock and lampoonery in the room. People were laughing at things that weren’t really funny and shaking their butts to songs that hadn’t yet begun.

“All these songs are by Kiss,” said part-time Pulses frontman Jesse Steinchen before they played “Anna Queen of Siam,” a cunning, catchy little pop song that has the band banishing a British schoolteacher to a parking garage. By now the butts were shaking with good reason; the Pulses play cool, cockeyed garage riffs held in place by Dave Ramm’s smart, snappy beats and the magnetically melodic six-string bass lines of ex-Fallout Shannon McConnell. McConnell, who shares singing duties with Steinchen and often adds quiet harmonies, might play bass better than anyone in town— considering the mathematical/musical mind-fuck of his Fender, yeah, actually, I think he does.

The Pulses played a few of their hits (you can tell the hits because everyone raises their hands and pumps their fists and knows all the words) from the Dirtnap EP, Little Brothers, but mostly they were parading their new ones, for a full-length to be titled Gather Round and Destroy All Our Records, due Sept. 6. The Pulses belong to that rare breed of bands that can sing semi-fruity hooks about someone named Buster coming back to life and manage to make them ring true. Everyone sings and dances along, and for a while you forget that these days, rock thinks it’s too tough to get mixed up with pop, and you forget that you’re too cool to like it that way.