Last Night: Matt & Kim, Cut Copy at the Glass House in Pomona. Monday, March 9, 2009.
Better Than: The 1980s.
The word "shtick" might have been invented to describe Matt & Kim, the Brooklyn power-pop married-couple bangers that opened last night's show. It's curt, brash-sounding, ugly little cluster of letters that almost seems short and weird enough to be cute. But it's not cute. It's just... a shtick. Gross.
More explanation, you ask? Ok, let's start with this shtick's shtick. Imagine the Glass House, and if you haven't been there, then, uh, imagine a stage. The show begins. Lights dim. Rap comes blasting out of the PA. In the semi-darkness, you can make out the outline of a banner being lifted on stage. Lights on! You see the banner, and it's pretty sweet. "MATT & KIM" in says in kickazz '80s space-fantasy-cartoon font. Matt and Kim run on stage. Fresh faced, smiling. They're doing wacky hip-hoppity dances! Matt starts mashing on his keyboard, Kim starts banging on her drums. "We're a band called Matt & Kim," Matt says. And then they play some caffeinated little song where Matt shouts out a tough chorus: "Yes, no, yes, no!"
What we've got is: 1. Branding. 2. Branding. 3. Cuteness. 4. Branding. 5. In-your-face-ish music that's "fun" by virtue of its formal features -- chipper drumming, silly-sounding keyboards, vaguely catchy shouting -- but actually isn't all that appealing. Apologies to this band's many fans: I likely haven't given their recorded music enough time to "get" (though it's not like I've never listened to Matt & Kim before). And I could see the argument that what they're doing is merely swiping a page from the original punk playbook -- if it didn't seem so cloying. But after seeing them both last night and at LA's Fuck Yeah Fest in August, I can't escape the feeling that the duo is too busy winking and nodding to achieve the level of irony, entertainment and art they seem to think they've achieved. I mean, they still regularly cover "The Final Countdown." Arrested Development made that bit of uncoolness cool and then uncool again five years ago!
Speaking of cool, Cut Copy is quite that. Slick, shiny, dancey, emo, rocking, poppy... cool. This is a band that understands dynamics. Somewhere in their Australian rock n' roll gestation, they came to the realization that dance music isn't just about the four-on-the-floor drum beat or lyrics about relationships playing out allegorically through disco interaction (though they do throw both of those things into the equation). It's about the build, the anticipation, the blood rush and then the release -- all folded, in their case, between metallic, synth-heavy dance-punk verses and choruses.
It's those sort of moments that make the songs on their breakout 2008 album, In Ghost Colours, so huge. And it's those sort of moments that account, partially, for why the four men on stage last night seemed almost dwarfed by their own songs. The music was excellent in that it sounded nearly identical to the way it does on record. We expect value-added at a concert, though, and luckily a really damn sweet lights show delivered that. Cut Copy's songs are dense with beats and atmospherics, to the extent that, at times, you almost couldn't believe the guys in the band were actually responsible for all that sound. It's not that they were lifeless up there; it's just that they seemed to be placeholders in a fantastic techno-rock performance that was bigger than any of them.
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They closed the show with their best jam, "Light and Music," which is fitting. Lights and music are the two elements you remember from a Cut Copy show. That's not half bad, considering you've got a certain band leaving you just with the memory of a husband and wife, smug in their own zaniness.
Personal Bias: The four Cut-Copy blokes were sitting at the table next to me in the Pho shop next door before the concert. They said about two words to each other. Come on, guys, give me a chance for some indie-rock eavesdropping.
Random Detail: Thanks, Matt, for telling us about your pit stains! Thanks, Kim, for telling everyone to rub their vaginas on the floor!