Here Comes Captain Cynical

Wonderlove/Nice
The Gypsy Lounge
Saturday, March 10

So you go to South By Southwest, one of these big, megasized, music-industry confabs, wishing to find a few new bands worthy of ink so the people back home will know just who is sweet and right and good and pure in the rock & roll universe, hoping to eventually repeat your joyous discovery of Grandaddy five years previous, way, way before anyone—anyone!—else had heard of them, but you only wind up teetering on the precipice of a manic-depressive episode upon realizing that the two best bands you've seen over the span of six looooong nights were the Black Crowes (which ultimately leaves you feeling old and tired, embracing a redundant era of history that you never experienced the first time around anyway) and an obscure Chinese punk band who'll probably just wind up going home, get rounded up by the Red Army and get shot in the head for expressing their no-mo'-Mao point of view. Really, you think, maybe this was the year you should've just stayed home.

You could have spent the whole friggin' week in a more dependable environment like the Gypsy Lounge, which is now so hip it's starting to attract other club owners—and they're not even disguising themselves! For there we were, standing atop the mixing-board kiosk in the back, lording it over everyone in the room like the Caesars we are, when in walked the Doll Hut's Linda Jemison. "Linda," we thought, "isn't your offramp several miles due north of here?" But it turns out Linda is currently doing manager-type work for Wonderlove, which makes sense in light of the fact that the band just recently finished an every-Wednesday stint inside her comfy, sticker-encrusted Anaheim abode.

So that, plus the tidbit that Wonderlove's name was on the lips of several people whose tastes we trust (which makes Wonderlove a buzz band, or at least the new Square, even though we're not quite done with the old Square), was what drew us to the Lounge on this night. Thing is we actually saw Wonderlove long ago and liked them fine then, even though they were positively drowning in Radiohead-isms at the time. But interband politics being what they eternally will be, they've since gone through changes —both lineup-wise and sonic-wise—leaving a more streamlined creature to foist on the honest, decent, cover-charge-paying citizenry, which has apparently left our sources scooping their freshly popped-out eyeballs off the ground and trying to stuff them back into their skulls.

About this new model of Wonderlove. Well, they at least give off the proper rock-star aura, which is a start. Heads certainly turned when one of their members walked inside the club, guitar slung across his back, big, poofy, rock & roll hair jutting out every which way. The music was pretty attention-getting too: a psychedelically colorful (or colorfully psychedelic) pop band loaded with cool tunes with titles that would make an English teacher wince, like "She Don't Love Me No More." They had a rather trippy chap pounding away on the keyboard/organ, whose injections reminded us a little of the old LA band Redd Kross (their vocal harmonies, meanwhile, screamed Lennon/ McCartney). And just about everything we heard sounded like a tight radio hit, cut from a time in an almost imaginable future when rock radio stations will get around to spinning non-corporate-manufactured music (yeah, right, sure!). The man with the Rock God 'Do was a pretty wicked-ass guitar player; they did a bunch of songs about being free and stuff, and their final tune ended in a distortion orgasm. The entire band does indeed seem to be a big improvement over their last incarnation (a wise choice—what band isn't copping Radiohead these days, anyway?) .

Nice, meanwhile, were a dreamy, somewhat-nerdy, five-man pop band fronted by a wispy-voiced singer. Their sound was filled out in parts with some mildly interesting synth effects, but mostly that just made them sound uncomfortably like the Cure, or maybe Belle & Sebastian if they got wigged out during an X-popping spree and started doing Beatles covers. Some of their hooks were quite hooky and some of their grooves were quite groovy, and they seemed to be getting better, stronger and faster as their set sauntered on; but then their stage time lapsed, which killed off the climax they seemed to be building up to. Perhaps another 10 minutes and they would've proved themselves more. Not stupendous, but not stupefying either. Just . . . nice.

 
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