Saturday, April 01, 2006

Instro-Fetishism!: The Joggers

(The Joggers, Schubas, 3/31/06)

To me, bands like Bloc Party are a good example of where indie rock gets impaled on its own stainless-steel blade of misery. Silent Alarm is basically an enjoyable album, but it has this mood of urgency and these tense arrangements that tend to kill the fun. Everything is wound together very tightly and constricted by a few simple patterns. The Joggers unravel that whole model along a loose, insanely technical tangent, and the threads all snap off and wriggle away on their own delirious adventures.

I really think bands like Interpol and Bloc Party want you to clench your ass and feel their paranoia and self-loathing and whatnot. The Joggers just have a fetish for strange melodies. The emotion you get from the music is just whatever emotion you happen to bring to it. It might remind you of something you've already sensed, but you don't have to come into it wanting it to make you feel a certain way. To enjoy most Interpol songs, even the really good ones, you almost have to make a conscious decision to mope along and let the band inflict all that austere emotion on you. I didn't see the Joggers do any of that earnest cringing that bad bands do when they're trying to get feelings across. I saw them watching their hands crawl up the fretboard, immersed in instrumental foreplay.

Sample Joggers stage banter/announcement: "Somebody's Super Shifter pedal wasn't on 'octave' setting. Can you guess which setting it was on?"

This makes them sound like technical show-offs, I'm sure, and they are. What redeems them is that they memorize their elaborate riffs until they become reflexes, then make them sound freshly improvised live. "Wicked Light Sleeper" leads with the staccato chords and syncopated high-hats you'd expect to hear on any number of Bloc Party songs, then follows it up with a hook that's both infectious and too long to memorize after one hearing.

I also like this band because they don't mind looking like slobs/rapists. Murphy Kasiewicz, the lead singer/guitarist, is going bald and apparently not fighting it. Darrell Bourque, the bass player, isn't bad-looking, and he doesn't wear holsters or a custom-tailored suit, for Christ's sake. I've never been to an Interpol show, but I imagine it's a bit like having four well-dressed thugs pistol-whipping you into admiring their good taste and genuine distress. Sure, they're a good band with some awesome songs. It's just silly to get seduced by them.

The Joggers just let their music spill all over the place, into metal and roots-rock and slightly past the limit of the pop-hook attention span. It's not about how many notes they can squeeze into a measure; it's about how many peoples' sensibilities they can tickle at once--the pop purist, the guitar nerd, the experimentalist, etc.--and that's the ony kind of virtuosity that's worth admiring. You can enjoy their music and not remeber all the reasons why. That's why they're worth listening to more than once or twice, and seeing their show on top of that.

Joggers MySpace page w/2 streaming songs

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