Made it to the first of Mashlin's two CD release parties on Saturday, May 28, mainly because the opening bands for the early show (Rory and History) are better than the opening bands were for the late show (The Curve and Plain Jane Automobile). What's interesting is that fans of all four bands probably found something to love in Mashlin, and there's no way you can like Mashlin and not have found something to enjoy about at least one of the openers. For me, it was the melodic pummeling provided by the boys and girls in History. Absolutely unafraid to be big and loud and a little complicated (but ever-mindful of the importance of keeping an actual song in there somewhere) the band's sound switched seamlessly from pounding thud to la-la harmonies with no math-rock pretense. Two keyboard players may be a bit much for a for-real rock band, but with only one guitar player carrying most of the band's notes-and-chords water, it's probably a necessity.
CRAWFISH FOR A CAUSE
What started as a Memorial Day weekend fuck-off at Will's Pub turned into a sentimental journey. Will had originally planned to have a crawfish boil the Sunday before Memorial Day … you know, hang out, drink beer, suck heads? Well, Nathan Adams (Bughead) got into a motorcycle accident a couple of weeks ago and it messed him up pretty bad. So Will (and, I think, Ens from Copper Rocket) decided that a benefit would be in order to help him pay off some bills. Thus, the laid-back crawfish boil turned into a large-scale gathering, with old-school Orlando turning out in force to help out Nathan. The guys from Gargamel, the J.C.'s, the Goldminers and, of course, Bughead were around and onstage at various points, but the music was largely secondary to the sense of camaraderie, especially with Nathan hobbling around the place receiving well-wishes at every crutch-step. I don't know how much money was raised, but judging by the number of people there (at $10/head), the number of crawfish plates (another $10 to indulge) and all the people who participated in a raffle (I actually won something!), it might not have been enough to pay a hospital bill, but it may well have been enough for Nathan to buy himself a very nice new motorcycle.
LOCAL CDS: TWO GOOD, TWO NOT SO MUCH
Kingsbury The Open Sea (www.kingsburymusic.net) : I'd like to see a cage match between Kingsbury and Summerbirds in the Cellar. It would be the most boring fight EVER: eight guys wandering around semi-somnambulant, hitting each other with drum brushes, Vicodin bottles and reverb boxes. Kingsbury are buried in a resonant cavern full of downcast melodies and spacious arrangements, with a slightly trippy patina mixing up the metaphor. They sound nothing like that giddy pop band The Kingsbury Manx (which is why I avoided them for so long), and this EP (their second) is a fine addition to the canon of Orlando-bands-who-shouldn't-be-from Orlando. The linchpin in the group's sound is the interplay between the piano (which drives most of the melodies) and the guitars (which provide most of the atmosphere); while the rhythm section is stretching-stretching-stretching, these instruments are tussling, making for an earthy yet extraterrestrial sort of racket. Singer Bruce Reed could probably sing in a little bigger voice than his subsonic mumble/whisper, but why should he bother?
Mashlin Pushing Through the Seasons (One Eleven/EastWest): What's not to love about Mashlin? They make big, swooning pop music that's unafraid to be smart. They recast emo sonics into acceptable launching points for something completely different and way more mature. They're a local band, on a local label, and they just got some major distribution from the same folks who are handling Lucero (EastWest, through ADA … basically Warner Music's farm team). So what's not to love about Mashlin? Not much. This is one of those bands I love to see coming from Orlando: creative, accessible and more interested in quality of creation than in quantity sold … but completely willing to do the work required to put their music in front of big audiences. Pushing Through doesn't ring hollow like many other big-budget semi-local/semi-national releases do (see below), and songs like "Cold Kiss of a Liar" (which is as pounding as it is subtle) or "Bending Light in New Directions" (which wants to be a ballad, but can't help rocking out) show a band that's matured a lot in a short time. I can't wait to see what they do next.
Through You Silhouette (Parafora): "My fingertips are your Kleenex" is a for-real lyric on this record. Gross, right? Well, I wish it were a little grosser. This six-song EP tries very hard to channel a Rage Against the Metalcore Machine vibe, but the thing that made Rage a formidable band was the unyielding intensity and sonic wallop of their records, a general nastiness that's definitely missing from this EP. Despite its very professional packaging, Silhouette suffers greatly from wafer-thin ideas recorded quite competently. I wanted to make fun of the fact that the drummer is only 13, but shit, he's good. It's much easier to point out that the entire band despite being put into a great studio with a good team (Jon Marshall Smith and Mike Watts) is long on music-school ability but way short on ingenuity, originality and legitimate emotion. All the requisite stop-start, soaring-vocals, crunchy metalcore bits are here, but it's all so … I don't know, empty. Nonetheless, it's quite likely that this will be a local band to pay attention to, because if nothing else, they're hitting the right marks and The Kids will undoubtedly lap this shit up.
Daylight District This Is Now! (www.daylightdistrict.net): Conceptually, this must have seemed like a good idea; mixing up delicate indie-pop and vaguely hip-hop-oriented rhymes should be a decent way to make two moribund and overdone genres at least fun, if not all that challenging. Unfortunately, when said rhymes include name-dropping Michigan Winter (from which two of Daylight District's members came; two others used to be in The Silent Treatment) on the utterly obvious title track and a completely stiff cadence (which is almost unlistenable on "I Want It All"), the whole conceit falls apart. Musically, this EP is a solid blend of sparse instrumentation and some decent-enough programming, all of which is arranged smartly and somewhat elegantly; but good God, someone tell these guys that they cannot (and should not) be "rapping." It completely "wrecks" the "flow" with a damning combination of rigidity and clumsiness that distracts from the otherwise worthwhile music.