Hot and Odd: Dirty Projectors, March 8; and Cut Off Your Hands, March 12 at RIBCO Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 19:48

Dirty Projectors

Editor's note: The Dirty Projectors show scheduled for Sunday, March 8, was canceled the day of the show.

Three years into its existence, the variety of acts that Daytrotter.com has brought to the Quad Cities for concerts defies pigeonholing, but they've tended to fall into two broad categories: the highly idiosyncratic and the on-the-verge. (Remember that founder Sean Moeller brought in Vampire Weekend, Blitzen Trapper, and Fleet Foxes before they were big.)

The two shows coming up in the next eight days feature one of each: Dirty Projectors (playing March 8) and New Zealand's Cut Off Your Hands (performing March 12). Rolling Stone said that Cut Off Your Hands sometimes sounds "like the best buzz band in the world," while Dirty Projectors' last record deconstructed Black Flag's seminal Damaged - with falsetto singing accented by female vocals that sound as if they came from heavenly robots. It's not too hard to figure out which falls into which category.

 

Dirty Projectors

The intricate, delicate, progressive sounds of Rise Above don't reveal their roots immediately. An explosion of electric-guitar noise in the middle of opening track "What I See" recontextualizes the song, in particular the fey vocals. What starts almost like a tropical jam-band - and a bad one at that - gets turned on its head, and becomes something that sounds like a contemporary version of Television or Captain Beefheart: compelling, defiantly experimental, and a bit dizzying in its alien intelligence.

Singer/leader Dave Longstreth - the only constant member of the band - reportedly approached the album as a re-write of Black Flag's hardcore classic from memory. There are short blasts of punk fury - almost all from the guitar - but Longstreth works with a large sonic palette, and any memory of Henry Rollins is wiped clean with generally soft instrumentation and that singing.

Dirty Projectors' Dave LongstrethIt's not all difficult listening. "Depression" has a rugged, jagged guitar hook that balances the opening noodling and gives shape to Longstreth's vocals, and while I wouldn't call the record accessible, it's not off-putting.

In a positive and admiring but somewhat cool review, Pitchfork wrote that "Dave Longstreth, like a lot of visionaries, is so full of bright ideas he can barely keep his shit together. ... Rise Above will drop plenty of jaws, and, like Deerhoof, Dirty Projectors are restructuring rock on a compositional level rather than a sonic one." That will likely strike you as either exhilarating or terrifying, and both responses are justified.

Dirty Projectors are slated to release a new album in June, Bitte Orca. The band also collaborated with Talking Heads' David Byrne on a track for the new Red Hot compilation, Dark Was the Night.

 

Dirty Projectors will perform on Sunday, March 8, at Huckleberry's (223 18th Street in Rock Island). The show starts at 6 p.m., and the bill also includes Nat Baldwin and Deradoorian. Tickets are $8.

 

For more information on the band, visit MySpace.com/dirtyprojectors.

 

Cut Off Your Hands

New Zealand's Cut Off Your Hands is an impressive outfit - if it's your first exposure to indie power pop of the latter half of this decade. If you're a little more seasoned, you might still like the band. One PopMatters reviewer declared: "I find it difficult to actively dislike Cut Off Your Hands because they steal from the best."

The review added that the group is "not the type of band to blow you away with their originality, but their strengths lie in approximating a comfortable familiarity born from the history of 20th Century pop."

Spin was more enthusiastic about the band's full-length debut: "a tsunami of galloping rhythms, lightning-charged guitar lines, and choruses that immediately infect your brain."

And Moeller reports that the band is "tremendous" live.

Cut Off Your HandsI'm ambivalent. Aside from pedestrian lyrics, the band's only shortcoming is that it's mostly walking well-worn paths. Cut Off Your Hands can be effectively sugary or muscular, and the guitar work is dense and strong, but the band struggles with staleness.

Put the band's You & I (released in January) on shuffle, and there's a good chance you'll hit upon a series of songs that are difficult to differentiate from each other. And others are as exciting as old shoes; "Heartbreak" could come from the Weezer oeuvre but for the utter lack of irony, or from the Shins for that matter. "It Doesn't Matter" is so peppy and shiny that it would put me to sleep without the whistle break.

Yet among the piercing-guitar pogo-stick pop that might remind you of half a dozen bands are nuggets that suggest the band has a bright future beyond well-crafted, disposable songs. In its slower moments - on "Someone Like Daniel," simple and haunting with echoes of children's voices in the background and the lightest keyboards, and in the dominant reverb guitars and accumulated electronic/guitar noise and discordant piano of "Nostalgia" - Cut Off Your Hands sound refreshingly distinctive and strong.

 

Cut Off Your Hands will perform at RIBCO on Thursday, March 12. The all-ages show starts at 7 p.m., and cover is $7.

 

For more information on the band, visit MySpace.com/cutoffyourhands.


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