May 1, 2005

"I'll go back, if you ask, I'll go back, if you ask me." - Bloc Party.

We saw The Books Friday night, with Keith Fullerton Whitman and Greg Davis opening. It was really quite a show. It should first be said that The Books are amazing, particularly live. We didn’t know what to expect from the performance, as the band’s music is an amalgamation of samples, guitars, strings and murmered vocals. We were surprised and then very impressed that all of the string parts, which are incredibly sophisticated (at least by pop music standards), are performed live, rather than sampled. We hadn’t realized that half the two-man (four-person for the live show) act is a cello virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist. With a longtime sidewoman in tow playing electric piano, violin and koto, and pitching in with some very strong vocal performances, the band was unstoppable, and more than replicated the material on their CDs.

All told, the performance was really quite something, mixing the musical performance with DVD video projected behind the band. The band is just endlessly clever, and the video really underscored the band’s humour and attention to serenity. Even their web site is wacky. The Books received two standing ovations from the audience at the MFA, but describing their sound is difficult – it is, in fact, unique in our estimation. It’s a decidely non-rock kind of thing (despite the occasionally inept AllMusic describing them as such in search results), and they aren’t really that electronic live, either. The best way to describe them may be as a cross between the Dismemberment Plan and Kronos Quartet. Anyway, The Books release records through Germany’s Tomlab. Junkmedia has an interview with the band from before the release of their second album here. Several MP3 blogs have posted tracks from their latest record, Lost and Safe. As a sidenote, Tomlab states on its web site that it will soon have a proprietary MP3 shop. So keep an eye out for that.

Keith Fullerton Whitman and Greg Davis’ performance deserves some discussion. But as we stated in our review of their record of live collaborations over at Junkmedia, the act’s live electronic improvisations have no discernible center. In short, the duo performed two pieces, the first was more clicks and dings, the second a long melodic droner. Both had video accompaniment. The video for the second piece was particularly entertaining, featuring strung-together stills of a grey kitty and shots the duo took while doing a world tour. The pictures were edited into a sort of stop-motion animation that was really humorous, with those creepy asymmetrical stuffed-animal monsters you've probably seen around occasionally haranguing the grey kitty. Funny.


We didn't really pay attention to the final 80% of The Get Up Kids' time together. And come to think of it, we didn't really pay attention to the first 10%, either. But that third 5%, when they released Four Minute Mile in 1997, was pretty great. We were pretty blown away when RLM slipped us the goods on cassette back in the day. Anyhoo, the band, based in our work home-away-from-home of KCMO, announced in March they are breaking up after playing their final shows this summer. As stated above, we didn't follow them that closely, so we aren't taking this very hard. But we will say the song "The Last Place You Look" is an indie rock masterpiece that puts a little emo lump in our throats just about every time we hear it. It's that good. It is good enough that we forgive the bad cover of New Order's "Regret." You can buy "The Last Place…" from Emusic. We'd really like to see some live video of the song, but couldn't find any in a cursory spin around Oh well. As Scandal said all those years ago, goodbye to you.

That is all.

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