So there we were in Koo's Art Cafe for the first time in nearly a year, trying to decide if all the new holes in the walls are a sign the club is becoming more wonderfully tacky, or just tacky. Though the Santa Ana room has always come down on the funkier side of our nasal cavity, the current operators seem hell-bent on getting their room to appear as divey as the old Al's Bar—not a good sign. Also not helping our POV was our companion, who had never been to Koo's before and was rather unimpressed with the amount of crust and grime he encountered. "Don't sit there!" he warned. "You might pick up a good fungus. I bet they're cultivating their own penicillin." But Koo's still cultivates good bands, one of which is Long Beach's Banner Day, whom we were there to see. Things didn't look promising at first, what with their questionable matching all-black outfits and Chuck Taylors; things looked worse when one of their members indulged himself in several guitar-as-phallus moments. But Banner Day are a decent pop-rock band full of cool, sweet harmonies, with a dash of emo thrown in to appease the kids (a new genre! "Emop!"). Their EP, which we picked up after their set, is even saucier. The XTC-esque "Small Star" starts with a great off-kilter drum pattern and some wonderfully strangled guitars before diving into something about moving to Hollywood and hanging with the street freaks. "Root Beer" rolls along on terrific, tumbling bass lines, a tune that sounds as good as a hit single to us (though it's not about soda pop—a metaphor for fucking, perhaps?). The slower, pained pace of "Brian Wilson" is their best Weezer moment, which shows they've diligently studied their power-pop playbook. Overall, a lot of nifty sounds, crafty twists and perfectly painted corners (except for that gratuitous Marcia Brady reference on one tune. How gauche!), a good band to have handy when next summer's International Pop Overthrow rolls around.
OC and Long Beach bands and musicians! Mail your CDs and tapes (along with your vital contact info, plus any impending performance dates) for possible review to: Locals Only,OC Weekly, P.O. Box 10788, Costa Mesa, CA 92627-0247.