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Review by Steve Gisselbrecht
I find Jetlagger kind of underwhelming. What they're doing is pretty simple, and resolutely mid-tempo. The vocals veer between very bland sung lines that go nowhere, and an almost rapped style that's much more interesting. When he's doing his sort-of rapping thing, it's got a mellow groove to it. But there's a very intrusive drum machine that the drummer is playing over, and the prerecorded stuff also includes some guitar or keyboard lines that are a lot more interesting than what the guitarist is actually playing live. It occurs to me that if I were really strung out from doing a lot of speed for several days straight, and I had finally stopped doing more speed and was starting to come down, but wasn't really down yet, this would probably be the perfect music to listen to while trying to calm down. Since I've never been in that situation, nor am likely to be, I'll pass.
I've been seeing Scamper a lot lately, thanks to their fabulously successful Abbey residency. Unlike those shows, they don't really fully indulge their goofball tendencies between songs. They mostly just play a show, and it's really striking how great they've gotten. They've always specialized in the most freakishly winsome pop tunes known to man, but lately they're ridiculously tight and polished. You could still slag them for not taking musical risks if you wanted to, but the simple fact is that they make beautiful songs really well, and the three-part harmonies are sugary little slices of heaven. Tonight's set hits all the essential high points, and except for an odd moment when Nate's voice just doesn't come out, it's damn near flawless.
Max Heinegg and the Nervous are next. I like Max's stuff, but I'm not often in the mood for it; I have to be calm and well-rested to properly appreciate it, as it's somewhat low-energy fare. They're kind of a bar band, kind of Americana, even kind of Springsteenesque. Max has a gorgeous voice, really high and clean, that soars out over the guitars and sells these songs. And the whole band is really solid. I just wish they'd pick up the pace a bit.
The Bon Savants are a lot better when they're not in the Rumble. I find it interesting that "loose" and "tight" are not antonyms in rock-crit-speak; tonight's set is as tight as their Rumble set was, but also very loose and relaxed and happy. It helps that they're not racing the clock, as several of their songs really spread out into big, beautiful psychedelic meanders tonight. And, at the risk of repeating myself, the recent changes to their sound have been hugely positive: the crisper guitar sounds make the songs come off more song-like, the new drummer is absolutely fantastic and only getting better, and by sticking with the falsetto when a lot of people (including me) criticized it, Thom's reached a point where it sounds really, really good and adds another layer of potential to their songs.
live show summary
Date: April 29, 2005 (Friday)