The Hype: Playing nondescript but high-quality indie rock for the past ten years, Alex Brown Church, a.k.a. Sea Wolf, has produced two full-length albums. Last year, he released White Water, White Bloom. Their inoffensive brand of eclectic folk music was recently deigned suitable for the soundtrack of cinematic phenomenon and all around crap-fest, New Moon (blech!).
Last night, Sea Wolf, accompanied by a full band, which included cello
and keyboards, graced the illustrious riser at Detroit Bar with an
indie-tastic presence. The problem as I see it, is that it isn't good
enough to be good anymore. What set indie music apart originally was
it's pioneering spirit, (i.e. it was refreshing when the Pixies
emerged from a sea of Aqua Net teased hair styles and spandex to change
the game.) Now it seems, everybody has a band who borrows their name
from a hip TV show, cult film, or–as in Sea Wolf's case–a Jack London
novel and plays sets full of acoustic-driven introspective ballads. As
far as this reviewer is concerned, Sea Wolf has an uphill battle.
Show: There were issues with the PA system all night long. All three
bands, through no fault of their own, dealt with perpetual squealing
from the room's speakers. It was unclear if this technical malady was
the reason Sea Wolf singer Alex Church flubbed several verses
throughout the band's set, but the sonic flaw was painfully obvious.
There were more than a few tense stares sent from the stage to the
sound booth in the back of the room, no doubt augmented by the fact
that Sea Wolf was making a live recording of the show to be used on an
upcoming summer release.
The band opened with the 1950's inspired
strummer “The Traitor” off of 2009's White Water, White Bloom.
Singing in a voice that was at times reminiscent of Bright Eyes' Conor
Oberst (Sea Wolf's latest album was recorded by frequent Bright Eyes
collaborator Mike Mogis), Church worked his way through an uninspired
set in front of a largely lackluster audience. The dreariness livened
temporarily with the cardiac rhythm of “Middle Distance Runner” off
2007's Leaves in the River
as well as set closer “You're a Wolf” off the same release. The latter
was loudly requested by several in the crowd.
The song “The Promise,”
originally released as a free download, was played twice at the show's
end for the benefit of the recording. Bearing the lyric “I will love
you in the morning if you love me tonight,” I was reminded of the
legalistic bartering for sex men inevitably engage in at one time or
another. Side note: Keyboardist Lisa Fendelander was a sight to
behold. Svelte, yet shapely, she manipulated two keyboards as well as a
device known as a Marxophone with aplomb. Occasionally she would flash
the hint of a smile to others in the band while lilting softly.