Swedish band The Royal Concept have been doing their homework. Their recently released EP The Royal Concept EP is a hodgepodge of influence from bands that have been popular in the past decade. Spread out over five tracks, there are elements of acts such as The Strokes, Foals and Phoenix among others. The lead single, Gimme Twice is particularly guilty of sounding Phoenix-esque, so much so that my friends asked me if this was the new Phoenix record when I played them the album. Is that bad? I don’t know.
All I know is that the Royal Concept have created a fun, catchy track that given the right traction, will be featured on the dance floor at an indie hipster party near you sometime this summer.
There are many similarities between seeing a band and making love. The first time with someone new is always filled with anticipation, uncertainty and intrigue. If you’re lucky it turns out pretty great. But with a repeat performance, the parallels become even more poignant. Sometimes you are more disappointed than you were the first time. Often as one matures, there is slow improvement as skills progress; and rarely, like Thursday night with the Rural Alberta Advantage, it’s like seeing someone you’re completely in love with after being apart for a while. You know that what’s coming is going to leave you entirely fulfilled – and then somehow, it’s even better.
Speaking of first times, I did have a first time with one of the opening acts – a young gentleman named Darren Eedens. Taking on the expanse of the Phoenix solo with his guitar, banjo and borrowed mandolin, Darren managed to captivate the early-comers with his songs that debated what is important in life, and captured his feelings about a bunch of girls that were mean to him along the way. With an endearingly awkward presence, and fun bluegrass folk style, the most remarkable thing was his amazing technical skill. In such a big space, the show could have benefitted from a backing band. I have no doubt that he would amaze in a small venue. Lucky for us, Darren has upcoming shows at Not My Dog, C’est What and the Painted Lady
“Characteristic of all great lovers, there are little things that they do that are ‘just right’. Things that you wait for with baited breath during repeat performances.”
Following this and wearing the biggest smiles ever, the RAA took to the stage for their last show of a busy touring 2011. They seemed just as excited to play the sold out house as the audience was to see them. By the time the time they hit Don’t Haunt this Place, I knew that the night’s tryst was going to be the best show I’d seen them play. Characteristic of all great lovers, there are little things that they do that are ‘just right’. Things that you wait for with baited breath during repeat performances. Amy Cole’s perfectly timed xylophone in Under the Knife and Ballad of the RAA, as well as her angelic vocals and base drumming that started in Rush Apart were captivating. Nils Edenloff’ strained, genuine, passionate lyrical performance hit that spot deep in your chest that makes you hold your breath. Paul Banwatt’s beaming smile while playing complex percussion was positively infectious.
Playing songs from both albums Departing and Hometowns, the audience was with the band for every step. At one point, Nils wistfully reminisced about writing and practicing these songs at a space they had rented just up the street – never imagining an audience like this would be singing all the words back to them. In typical RAA fashion, they also did a few fun covers – this time with a Canadian twist: The Littlest Hobo, Canada Geese by Gord Downey, and my favourite of the night Lover Lover Lover by Leonard Cohen.
The highlight of the night was the encore. Not even able to wait for the slow clap to culminate, the band jumped back on stage, said “this is our last show of the year, so we’re just going to play as much as we can okay?” and threw it down. North Star and Sleep All Day got the audience swaying, and then Barnes’ Yard and Deathbridge in Lethbridge brought back the dancing and clapping fury that had been going on throughout. Finally, leaving the stage and heading for a place atop the side bar, the acoustic Goodnight to a silent Phoenix audience was like a forehead kiss at the end of it all – the perfect goodnight.
I have to write a few disclaimers before I dive into this review, as I feel it may arouse some impassioned opinions. First, as conflicted as I feel about some band members embarking on tours without others, it’s within all of the songwriters’ rights to tour such material without other members (particularly when one of its key members is dead). Second, it’s not up to me to decide whether a tour should or shouldn’t happen. I can only report on what my thoughts were.
Let me preface this with Panic Manual’s love of Joy Division, albeit in varying degrees, through various phases of our lives. I would say for me, finding this band had more to do with timing in impressionable adolescence. The music was poetic, dark, and rebellious, but on top of everything else there was a dreary upbringing, unhappy marriage, and of course the dramatic finish of a suicide. One needs grand things to explore in youth…be it Star Wars or Joy Division, and this is probably the closest I ever got towards music fanaticism, having collected every album, boxed set, poster, book, vinyl, and t-shirt that I could afford.
That said, I haven’t actively listened to them since I was in 12th Grade. Art is funny that way–the stuff you discover in high school sticks with you forever in spite of abandonment. Your formative years can make a book, album, or film feel like your life is hinging on its consumption. I would imagine that I’m no exception here–being a teenager is all about brooding poetry, after all.
So…onto my thoughts about the show. This past year, Peter Hook has been touring the posthumously-released Closer (my favorite of the two official albums), and he continues on the success of those shows by performing Unknown Pleasures with The Light, which includes his son on bass. The backing band certainly sounded louder and more stadium-rocky than anything I had remembered…that in itself is fine, seeing as a tour should be supporting a new and different ambition towards past material to make it a worthwhile endeavor. I just felt like Hook was scream-singing most of the lyrics, struggling to keep up with the breakneck punk tempo of the songs (however at age 55, we should all be so lucky to be pulling off rock shows passably at any level).
And what was up with those aggressive ceiling and audience points?
On the one hand, I had to admire Mr. Hook’s enthusiasm for rocking out with his cock out. On the other, I couldn’t help but wonder if a different approach to the material might have given us more to enjoy and think about. I’m hard-pressed to suggest what that approach might be (acoustic??), but it just seemed as if the album was turning into a parody of a prototypical ‘punk’ sound when so much of what made Joy Division appealing in the first place was its hollow percussional scarcity.
Some of the songs went off better than others. Shadowplay, Transmission, and Dead Souls, which made me wonder whether I might have felt differently about an instrumental version of the tour because it would have stayed true to Mr. Hook’s true talents. To me, the poetic lyrics are really the foundation of the group’s appeal–something I really felt was missing from New Order. New Order of course had other strengths in electronic music.
I would suspect that given Peter Hook’s interviews about how he thinks anyone who disapproves of these shows should fuck off, he won’t care much about what I have to say. Perhaps you don’t either, but at the end of the day I expected something better from the man who created one of the best singles of 1997.
Toronto – With the recent popularity of Phoenix and some valerie bands, it would only seem natural for more French electro pop acts to come out of the woodworks. One of those bands that is enjoying a bit of a renaissance is Tahiti 80. If that name sounds familiar to you, that’s because Tahiti 80 was around when French electro pop bands first started invading the shores of America in early 2000s. Their single Heartbeat made them many fans in that era, as the effortless playful summer tones of that song was a nice contrast to all the other music that was popular at the time. You have probably heard this song. If not the original, then the popular Cornelius remix that exists.
Since that time, the band has released four more albums but were unable to obtain similar success on the rugged shores of America. The new infusion of French talent in recent years has once again opened the doors for Tahiti 80 to try to reclaim what once was theirs, if for only a fleeting moment.
The Past, The Present, and The Possible is Tahiti 80’s new album. Their sixth effort, the album is filled with electro laden, hooked fill indie pop tracks that brings in a nice warm current to the winter time air. I don’t know what it is about French bands, maybe it’s the wine, maybe it’s the cuisine. All their music sounds so effortless and fun. Tahiti 80s new album is no exception. While it’s easy to compare this band to current French pop kings Phoenix, one has to remember that these bands have basically been around for the same amount of time. Luckily for us, Tahiti 80 is touring North America this year and you can make these comparisons yourself!
Tahiti 80 will be playing SXSW. Here are their scheduled times:
03/16, SXSW: Official Showcase @ 512 Rooftop
03/17, SXSW: Trumer Pills Afternoon Social @ Klub Krucial (1:30pm)
03/17, SXSW: BUREX Party Brush Square (5:00pm)
They have other dates. None of which is Toronto, sadly. Since I’m so nice I called up all these clubs and got the set times for you.
03/09 CHICAGO, IL The Abbey (11:30pm)
03/10 NEW YORK, NY Mercury Lounge (11:00pm)
03/12 SAN DIEGO, CA Bar Pink (10:30pm)
03/13 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Rickshaw Stop (10:45pm)
03/14 LOS ANGELES, CA Troubadour (10:00pm)