PLAYING DETROIT: Blow Pop Finds Escape in ’80s Sounds with “Friendly” Premiere

Before the pandemic, Keaton Butler and Avery Reidy were just friends. They were also living the hodge-podge lifestyles that most working musicians end up scraping together to make ends meet. Butler was bartending, engineering sound for live shows, and performing in three different bands. Reidy was traveling around the country every week, Monday through Thursday, working as an acoustics consultant. Since the pandemic hit, their lives have changed drastically: they went from performing on stage to performing on screen; Butler transformed from country queen to bubble gum goddess; and the duo went from being friends to becoming lovers. Blow Pop is the amalgamation of years and friendship between Butler and Reidy, a shared love of Prince and Donna Summers, and a need to escape into something light during these heavy times. 

“It’s sort of like a break to us,” Reidy says. “Just fun and easily digestible… no frills. It felt like we needed it for ourselves, and we thought maybe people would enjoy it.” Last year, they released three songs – “Put You Down” in June, with “So Right” and “Nobody” following in November. But Blow Pop is just getting started.

Like the 7″ singles of decades past, Just Friends – out digitally this Friday – is comprised of two songs: A-side “Friendly” premieres today, exclusively via Audiofemme. The couple recorded both tracks while staying with family in Florida; traveling there meant they had to trade in their usual array of instruments for a single midi keyboard and a mic. This change in medium opened new doors of creativity for the pair, who wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered the songs on their own. Instead of acoustic guitar, they layered synths and booming percussion to create a wall of sound that supports Butler’s impermeable vocals. 

On “Friendly,” Butler tells the familiar tale of reconciling with an ex. The song opens with sparse electric piano and Butler singing, “Won’t you treat me again like you did back in the old days/Cuz I want nothing more than for us like before to be friendly/I’ve heard through our friends that you’d rather pretend you don’t know me/But I’ve spent way too long feeling like I did wrong/That’s the old me.” The percussion comes cascading in as Butler vows not to let hard feelings get in the way of her happiness. Her unapologetic lyrics and nostalgic melodies are reminiscent of ’80s pop queens, which is fitting considering she has Debbie Harry’s face tattooed on her arm. “She’s like my idol,” says Butler. “My biggest influence writing for this project is probably Blondie.” 

Aside from Blondie, Butler says Dua Lipa has had a big influence on her effervescent songwriting. “Over the summer, I just wanted [to listen to] something really happy,” says Butler. “So I was just listening to Dua Lipa a lot.” Like so many of us over the last year, Butler and Reidy have been searching for ways to escape, to pretend reality is anything other than being in the same apartment everyday, doing the same thing. Blow Pop is not only a sonic escape, but also a complete role play – an opportunity to immerse themselves in different characters that live far outside of constricting reality. 

Both Reidy and Butler are well accustomed to performing; whether it’s for Butler’s pre-pandemic country night, charading as Missy Mae at Trixie’s Bar, or Reidy’s proclivity for acting out random scenarios with strangers, it’s clear that both of them get a high from taking on various identities. “It’s a big mental escape for me,” explains Reidy. “Even doing mundane things when I was working a nine to five felt like performing to me. I used to… do these noise surveys where I’d just have to talk to like a million people and it was like a character – like I turn this different person on. It’s kind of always how I’ve looked at life.” The world’s a stage, so they say.

The couple definitely harness their inner glam rockers as Blow Pop. Both “Friendly” and its B-side “Got the Moves” inspire the listener to put on some pink tights and red lipstick and dance like they’re at the disco. “Whenever we do a photoshoot, I only wear her clothes,” says Reidy. “That’s been the norm at this point, which is why we’re so colorful and fun.”

Just Friends is yet another beautiful, bright piece of music to come out of the rubble of this year, speaking to the buoyancy of pop music and the resilience of people who make it.

Follow Blow Pop on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING DETROIT: Prude Boys Unpack Grief and Grievances on New Seven Inch

Hamtramck-based DIY band Prude Boys (Caroline Thornbury, Quentin Thornbury, and Connor Dodson) recently celebrated the release of their new 7-inch record, The Reunion/Daddy. The songs – put out on the band’s own label, Grumble Records – are a preview of a full-length record the band recorded last July. C. Thornbury’s rock solid vocals are the constant between two very different songs: a fuzzy, dream state rumination on loss and a folk-driven reflection on unconscious cycles of hurtful patterns. 

“The Reunion” feels nostalgic, heartbroken and triumphant all at once. Not shying away from the band’s comparison to new wave trailblazers The Pretenders, Thornbury dons a short blue wig and sings alone under a disco ball for the song’s music video. Her solitude in the video reinforces the song’s core ethos – grappling with the loss of a loved one while finding a way to stand on her own two feet. 

“It’s actually about my sister who passed away two years ago,” explains C. Thornbury. “I had this dream that I had to go to her high school reunion for her in her place, so the song sort of stemmed off of there and how, in the grieving process, all the real sadness and realization of loss happens later on when all those little things happen…like I would text her about this article I’m reading or send her a picture of this t-shirt I like.” The song acts as a refreshing catharsis for anyone experiencing loss, whether it’s a loved one who has passed away or one someone who’s just not in your life anymore. 

The band drops the guitar solos and drums for “Daddy,” a staggering song that C. Thornbury originally wrote on acoustic guitar. Her cyclical lyrics and guitar melody reflect the heart of the song, which talks about the Sisyphean task of loving someone that keeps hurting you. “It’s about the wrongs that your family does to you without their knowledge and how you sort of carry that with you,” C. Thornbury explains. “And how you keep trying and trying with people you love even though their behavior towards you isn’t improving and they have no idea what they’re actually doing to you.”

Overall, Prude Boys deliver brutal honesty wrapped in razor-sharp instrumentation and gorgeous melodies in this pair of songs. Look out for more Burger Record releases in the future and listen to The Reunion/Daddy below.




LIVE REVIEW: Sean Nicholas Savage & Dinner @ Baby’s All Right

The disco balls were in full force at Baby’s All Right last Saturday, where the night’s festivities could have easily marched under one banner: Night of the Weirdos. That is of course, the highest order of compliments coming from my fingers, and while I knew from firsthand experience what a bizarro Canadian crooner Sean Nicholas Savage is, I was delighted to find a kindred kook in Dinner.

Comprised of Danish singer/songwriter Anders Rhedin, with the assistance of a live guitarist affectionately referred to only as “Fielder,” Dinner was intent on making their set as fun as humanly possible. Rhedin succeeded. An angular New Romantic in a split-open, black blouse, the artist expertly intertwined goofs into his deadpan delivery. “This is a song about going out,” Rhedin droned before announcing, “This song is called ‘Going Out.’”

Prior to a banging rendition of “Girl” from 2015’s Three EPs, Rhedin instructed the entire room to “sit down,” before treating us to a sulky serenade from the center of our crouching bodies. Rhedin stood over us, a sparkling shroud of cloth dripping from his head, and then joined us on the ground for a good wriggle-around. As he rejoined Fielder onstage, Rhedin announced that “the genius Sean Nicholas Savage” was to join him onstage… only Sean was nowhere to be found. “Sean! SEAN!” he shouted, and the crowd followed suit, eventually succeeding in our beckoning.

The resulting duet was exceptional – contrasting Rhedin’s somber baritone with Savage’s gutsy falsetto. Savage swayed dreamily as Rhedin danced in typical Dinner fashion – which reads like someone getting ready in front of the mirror on prom night in an ‘80s film. On Saturday night, I can safely say that Dinner was served hot.

Sean Nicholas Savage is a much less kinetic performer than Dinner, for certain, but his command of a crowd is not reliant on bouncing around. In fact, he stays remarkably still while performing, his pipes doing most of the movement for him. In his early moments onstage he stood in blue-striped track pants and a dingy tank top. His closely cropped blue hair was the exact hue of his pant stripes by no accident. A saxophonist stood to his left, injecting even more sex appeal into Savage’s already sultry material.

Unfortunately, the saxophonist retreated offstage before long, leaving Savage with his only accompaniment: the backing tracks he plays from his phone. It may be a modern technique, but I’m certain that only a performer with the talent and charisma quotient of Savage could effectively pull it off. I still long for the day I can see him with a full band. Then again, if that day never comes, I’ll still gladly attend his gigs.

Ostensibly there to present new material from latest LP Yummycoma (released one day prior) Savage also swept through crowd favorites like “Chin Chin,” and “Everything Baby Blue” with his snarling and sweet voice, occasionally taking requests and reading the odd poem, (or “rant” as he labeled “Tarot Boys”). A pared down version of Alphaville’s “Forever Young” truly brought the house down, as did Savage’s encore: the strange and self-aware “Music” from 2016’s Magnificent Fist.

“I knew he was going to end with that!” a man in the audience joyfully shouted. And I knew that Sean Nicholas Savage would keep on keeping it weird.

PLAYING DETROIT: Tart Returns as a Trio on New EP Toothache

Sweet, sour and glittering with adrenaline (appropriately named) transcendent Detroit trio Tart have made a reputation for themselves by deconstructing new wave and electroclash to spawn their genre-defying sound. Together, vocalist Zee Bricker, guitarist Adam Michael Lee Padden and drummer Donny Blum form a vibrantly expressive shred-pop outfit who approach each song as a fresh start.

Formed formally in 2014, best friends turned roommates turned sonic architects Bricker and Padden ventured to create a sound that fused the intricacies of their contrasting musical backgrounds: Bricker’s disciplined theatre education and Padden’s untamed, collaborative rock and roll fire. While the then duo explored the marriage of Bricker’s haunting vocal prowess and piercing lyrics with Padden’s intuitive and calculated guitar treatment, it was their inanimate third member, the drum machine, that filled a percussive void yet also strained Tart’s potential.

Blum (who also drums in The Von Bondies) helped them achieve it fully when he began playing with Tart for their live performances in 2016. Both Bricker and Padden discovered a raw beginning within the preexisting framework, Blum being the missing ingredient. It is Blum’s primal endurance and virtuosic stylings that helped birth a new, energized Tart with the same name, but an entirely realized vision.

Earlier this month, Tart saw the release of their third (and in many ways their first) EP Toothache, a well-rounded, eruptive 4-track collection that defines the band’s ardent past and shimmering future with a fully formed ferocity. “Metal Eyes” (which Bricker jokes is their one true “pop song”) feels more Dandy Warhols than glittering excess whereas Toothache is a riotous Tank Girl worthy banger. Pared down from six tracks, Toothache finds a polished momentum that embody what Tart has come to do best: sincere and sinister tornadic shred-pop with a well-roundedness that feels radio ready.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth and a bad attitude check out Tart’s latest below:

ONLY NOISE: Poison Pen – The Discretely Vicious Songs of Elvis Costello


The best insults are those that fly over our heads. Those that for a minute maybe sound like praise. Those that strike with a delay…like a cut from a sharp blade that doesn’t begin to bleed until several moments after incision. An insult that can walk away from its victim, turn its back and laugh as the brunt of the joke stands, stammering for a comeback. There are, in my book, four contemporary masters of this caliber of lyrical affront: Bob Dylan, Morrissey, Leonard Cohen and Elvis Costello. It is the latter that I praise today, for turning the act of insolence into an art form. I originally thought this could be a great Valentine’s Day piece, being the grumpy bastard that I am, but instead I will salute Costello on his birthday, which is today.

There are a cargo truck’s worth of reasons why Costello is one of my favorite songwriters of all time; that unmistakable snarl of a voice that could make “Three Blind Mice” sound subversive, his unflinching command of pop music, and those glasses…I’m a sucker for anyone on the Buddy Holly spectrum of things. But one of the most compelling things about Costello is his wicked mastery of the English language. His lyrics are often love letters printed with poison, at first seeming sweet, and only after consideration revealing themselves to be cruel reprimands.

It is this very contrast that I find so intriguing, and it is an attraction that occurs outside of my musical fanaticism as well. There is nothing more entertaining and refreshing to me than those who break the behavioral pattern people expect of them. When old ladies curse, when my kindest friends reveal their deep hatred for someone, when parents admit that their child is an asshole…these all tickle my deeply-rooted, contrarian nature, and the same can be said for Costello’s work.

His songs work in a similar, sneak-attack fashion to hard liquor; it’s smooth going down, but catches up to you later. The insatiable pop licks Costello brandishes overwhelm, while a guerilla faction of snide remarks injure from the side. Songs like “I Hope You’re Happy Now” from 1986’s Blood And Chocolate is a prime example of this dichotomy, especially given the misleading title (he really doesn’t hope you are happy now).

“He’s a fine figure of a man and handsome too,” Costello sneers. “With his eyes upon the secret places he’d like to undo.”

He goes on to describe a comically abysmal bloke that his former flame is bedding, wishing them both well with a sturdy middle finger.

“He’s got all the things you need and some that you will never/but you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever. Still, he knows what she wants and what she don’t allow/and I hope that you’re happy now.”

“He’s acting innocent and proud still you know what he’s after/Like a matador with his pork sword, while we all die of laughter/In his turquoise pajamas and motorcycle hat/I hope you’re happy now because you’ll soon put pay to that.”

The fun continues with tracks like “Miracle Man” off of 1977’s debut My Aim Is True, in which Costello proves his aptitude for the backhanded compliment (those going through breakups, take note).

“Yet everybody loves you so much, girl
/I just don’t know how you stand the strain/Oh I-I’m the one who’s here tonight/And I don’t want to do it all in vain.”

I used to wish that during every breakup, I could magically summon Costello, like some sort of mean genie to rattle off insults to romantic wrongdoers in my life. Perhaps he could hide in a tree and speak into a tiny mic hooked to my invisible earpiece, feeding me lines like “I knew then what I know now, I never loved you anyhow.” If only life worked like that.

It seems that even Costello’s “love songs” are not what they seem. One of his most iconic ballads, “Alison” has often been looked to as a slow dance, anniversary type of love song-something deeply romantic, when in fact it sprung from a far more depressing reality.

In Costello’s recent autobiography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, he describes the impetus for writing the track: “I wrote the song “Alison” after seeing a beautiful checkout girl at the local supermarket. She had a face for which a ship might have once been named. Scoundrels might once have fought mist-swathed duels to defend her honour. Now she was punching in the prices on cans of beans at a cash register and looking as if all the hopes and dreams of her youth were draining away.”

I wonder if there were a few who read that book and wished they hadn’t; their wedding song ruined forever.

A friend of mine in high school who was also a massive Costello fan found solace in the song “Different Finger” from 1981’s Trust when she got mixed up in the age-old conundrum of infidelity. While most songwriters would exalt their new lover, or self-flagellate with guilt, Costello is cold and despondent atop a knee-weakening melody. All he asks is that the affair be carried out sans wedding bands, revealing little to no emotional investment. 

“Please put your rings on a diff’rent finger if you meet me tonight/’Cause I can’t stand those suspicious glances/’Cause I know the things they’re saying are right.”

“I don’t want to hear your whole life story/Or about my strange resemblance to some old flame/All I want is one night of glory/I don’t even know your second name.”

“Different Finger” is an honest song and a song without honor all at once. We can learn from its vulnerability and imperfections-it so clearly exposes all of the possibilities inside of us, that really we are all capable of anything given the correct cocktail of circumstance.

Of all these venomous love songs, “Little Triggers” off of 1978’s This Year’s Model takes the proverbial cake. It is one of the most heartrending songs of all time, with nods to doo-wop vocal melodies and the haunting pulses of Steve Nieves B3 organ. But despite the songs potential for glorious love-balladry, it is an extreme close up of an imperfect relationship, and all of the sour miscommunications that come along with.

“Little triggers that you pull with your tongue/Little triggers I don’t wanna be hung up/Strung up when you don’t call up/Little sniggers on your lips/Little triggers in your grip/Little triggers, my hand on your hip

“Worryin’ about the common decency/When it is only a question of frequency/When you say okay but you’ve got cheek to be/Sayin’ you’re tired of me when you don’t even weaken these/Little triggers that you pull with your tongue/Little triggers, I don’t want to be hung up, strung up/When you don’t call up.”

“Little Triggers” makes me wonder if the trigger-happy lover isn’t in fact Costello himself. It’s hard to imagine that any partner of his could be more sharp tongued than the insult-wielding musician. Or perhaps, his songs are merely some attempt at wish fulfillment. Maybe in real life it was too painful to put up a fight, so he brought the fight to music instead. I wish we all could siphon our pain into chart-topping songs. In the meantime, we have Elvis Costello.



Berkeley-born and Brooklyn-based trio POP ETC are back with Souvenir, a follow up to 2012’s eponymous release.

In the last three years, the band has traversed in an even poppier direction, almost a little cheesy. But in a time when “pop” is considered an obscenity, a genre to be left for the tweens, POP ETC makes something shimmer on Souvenir.

The first single, “What Am I Becoming?” stands out as one of my favorite tracks, right next to the relentlessly catchy “Vice,” where lead singer Chris Chu sings, “You’ve got that vice that I like/No matter how hard I fight/It takes a hold of me right now.”

“Your Heart is a Weapon” and “Running in Circles” most clearly relay the 80’s synth-pop feel dominating the album. Slowing it down, “I Wanted to Change the World But the World Changed Me” (apart from being a mouthful of a title) is set in motion by a catchy guitar hook immediately reminiscent of “No Scrubs” by TLC.

The album is sprinkled with bits of R&B influence throughout, and it’s fair to assume these guys have spent some time listening to the likes of both Duran Duran and Mariah, and everything in between.

Perhaps that explains where the “et cetera” comes from.

There’s a clearly deliberate cohesion on Souvenir that was lacking on the overdone POP ETC.  Simplifying the production and easing up on the auto-tune makes for a delightful listen, and a pretty good dance party playlist for fans of other contemporary indie pop artists like Ra Ra Riot or Washed Out.

The boys are currently on tour with Oh Wonder, and will be playing Music Hall of Williamsburg this Friday and Bowery Ballroom on Saturday.

PLAYING DETROIT: DJ Duo Haute to Death


It was the day of my grandmother’s funeral. Having spent the better portion of my day mourning the loss with my father and chain smoking while driving familiar streets of my hometown where the old bars had new signs, I was unnerved with realizing not everything was as I left it when I moved out and to Detroit two years ago. By the end of the day, I was disheveled and still dressed sullenly in  black. My face was puffy from crying and both my body and mind were fevered with exhaustion. David Bowie’s “Changes” came on the radio as my boyfriend at the time asked what I wanted to do. It was late. It was Saturday. I was tired. But without hesitation I stared out of the passenger side window at a sky that threatened snow and said, “I have to go to Temple.” This was not some prolific religious sentiment, although looking back maybe in some ways it was. Temple is “Temple Bar,” one of Detroit’s most unassuming vestiges and my salvation was (and still is) Haute to Death; a monthly dance party thrown by Ash Nowak and Jon Dones.

Creators, curators, and collaborators in life, love, and the dance floor, Nowak and Dones are more than DJ’s, they are partners and hosts to what will undoubtedly be your favorite night (if you’re lucky enough to remember it). Emotional electricians, they are instigators of catharsis with a killer record collection and an undeniably thoughtful approach to weaving a tapestry of people, environment, and sound. What started as a search to throw the best dance party for friends is now celebrating it’s eight year residency this month. “We’ve developed a family of people here,” says Dones.  “Ash and I don’t have a lot of family. We feel so connected to the people that show up that I don’t necessarily have to know where they came from, or what they do for a living because we’re all here together. What we do isn’t about us, it’s about you.”

For eight years, Haute to Death has called Temple Bar its home base and in some ways its birth place. A pock marked parking lot surrounds an institution colored building with the name painted crudely above the door, Temple Bar is the last place you would expect to find the city’s most welcoming and unapologetic dance party. The DJ booth sits high above the dance floor where Nowak and Dones are glassed in and silhouetted by neon genitalia (one of many idiosyncratic details of Temple Bar’s landscape). The aforementioned dance floor is contained by a half wall and is no bigger than a few handicap accessible bathroom stalls side by side. The intimacy is the most intimidating quality of a Haute to Death event and paradoxically is what invites you in to stay. Since it falls on the third Saturday of each  month, the T.V. sets are tuned to SNL (which seems meta in context) and the awkward pool table wedged between the bathrooms is always strangely occupied as people aim their pool sticks into the air because rarely is there room to make a real shot (hell, you’re lucky if can stand with your feet apart). Sometimes a dog shows up, and no one has ever seen anyone actually play the Sopranos pinball machine near the entrance. Skin will touch skin, sweat will converge with other spilled fluids, and your hair will refuse to hold whatever product or styling you came in with. The air is promised to be thick and salty and each party is not without its share of playful dance offs, fits of cinematic twirling and even the occasional new wave twerk-a-thon. Without fail there will be at least one tangible moment where the music finds temporary shelter within you and shakes something loose (or perhaps pieces something back together). You can be yourself, someone else, or no one at all.


“Jon and I like a lot of the same things. We ultimately have the same end goal but have extraordinarily different ways of getting there,” explains Nowak on their ability to collaborate. “You can’t play candy all night long. It’s fun and tempting, but it’s not sustainable.” Even under the shimmering lights and the waves of glistening skin, there are periodic points in the set where things go from moody, to dark all the way back to desert-like electro pop. “We focus on thoughtful sets with emotional arches,” Dones adds.

Over a bottle of wine, I tell Nowak and Dones (now considered my friends and creative cohorts) what I love most about their monthly sweaty soiree. “What is the more interesting story is your experience,” Dones says. “We’ve never been to Haute to Death. We don’t know what it’s like.” I walk them through the first time I showed up. I felt like a squad-less orphan until they spun a New Order mix that I would have never heard anywhere near my hometown suburb and how when I stand under the disco ball and Kraftwerk’s “Telephone Call” bleeds into Azealia Banks “212” (one of Nowak’s staple mixes) I feel like I’m being transported to another planet (yet feel completely grounded). I remind them of the time the speakers blew during their annual “Bosses and Secretaries Edition” and a resident babe and H2D’er dressed in an all white suit, booted up the jukebox to save the party with Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and how everyone felt this shared emotional rush of relief, gratitude and well, praise to this unworldly little slice of party heaven that we all feel has been gifted to us. These magical moments are exclusive to what Nowak and Dones do which is far more than spin records or craft playlists. They provide a setting, a mood, and a warmth that encourages each person in attendance (whether they are actively participating or not) to formulate their own memory and to use the floor as their own therapy. (Nowak even adds that they’ve only had ‘one fight in eight years’, which is pretty impressive.) I recollect all the times I danced with a broken heart, physical injury, and creative malaise and how by the end of the night, even though I end up with my lipstick kissed off, my eye makeup running down my cheeks and my clothes adhered to my skin, Haute to Death never fails to stir me back to life. A confectionary and visceral collision, Nowak and Dones are artists of experience and Haute to Death is their torrid and glittered canvas. “It’s a mess,” Nowak says, “and it’s really fantastic.”

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VIDEO OF THE WEEK: The Ugly Club, “Passengers”

The Ugly Club AF

Brooklyn-based psych-pop quartet, The Ugly Club (Ryan Eagan, Talor Mandel, Rick Su-Poi & Ryan McNulty), has perfected an ability to craft songs that straddle the line between gleaming, exuberant dance hits and infectious, complex garage-rock throwback jams. Since their 2012 full length, You Belong To The Minutes they have shown us that walking this walk is an art unto itself. Each track employs punchy lo-fi drums and blistering electric guitar hooks, lush, orchestral embellishments, and Egan’s retro drawling vocals stretched over top like a layer of hand-woven lace. The result makes us nostalgic for the NYC musical behemoths of yore, who provided soundtracks to our comings of age…Interpol, The Strokes, The Walkmen….sigh.

With their new single “Passengers” out and a video to accompany, we’re getting a sneak peak of a new direction toward which The Ugly Club is meandering. And ironically it’s quite pretty. Unlike what we’ve heard previously from the band, “Passengers” is defined first and foremost by sweltering synth melodies that nod reverently to late 70s new wave and mid 90s dance pop. Funky, slapping bass underpins, while Egan’s vocals are freer and more expressive than ever, suggesting that he’s arrived as an artist. Though this may be the danciest track we’ve heard from the band so far, the boys clearly have not forsaken their signature moodiness. At the end of the song a gritty, grinding electric guitar hook enters the fray, brilliantly mimicking an earlier synth/bass low end melody combo, and somehow manages to anchor the whole thing, as if to bring a hot air balloon back to earth. Throughout, the video shows Egan escaping from what appears to be quite the sinister predicament, winding through various rooms of an apartment like he’s finding his way out of a nightmarish maze. At the end–coincidentally or not, when that garage-y guitar line comes in, shaking the listener out of a disco dream–our protagonist is finally liberated from the moors of what was laying beneath the metaphorical surface. He emerges on a rooftop, for a late afternoon dance party.

Watch the great escape below Via Youtube. The Ugly Club will play Mexicali on 10/16.

SHOW REVIEW: The Horrors, live at MHOW

Given the infrequency with which these guys tour, I had no idea what exactly to expect from them as a live act. I got into Primary Colours when it came out in 2009, because of the song “Three Decades”, which starts out seeming like disjointed a-harmonious chaos, and becomes, at the exact moment you feel you’re going to lose your mind, melodious and really quite beautiful. It’s like being handed a glass of cold water when you didn’t even know you needed it.

To me, they are what Joy Division would have become had Ian Curtis decided not to give the ghost up. However, after I listened to more, I realized I like them for one pretty obvious reason: if all the best aspects of shoegaze and 80’s new wave were to have a love child, it would be the Horrors. You could say that the former progressed naturally out of the latter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the two sound good together.The Horrors do pull it off though, pretty brilliantly. Playing into their new-wave aesthetic, they cultivate a louder-than-life persona on stage, with Faris Badwan’s freakishly tall frame in the forefront, towering over the audience, his faced obscured by a mop of disheveled hair. The rock star ethos he works pretty hard to achieve (he prefaces each song with a slur of incoherent mumblings, for example) is tempered by the spacier lo-fi, effect of all the distortion and synth they employ. This contrast alone, adds a compelling ingredient to what could otherwise be thought of as a pretty formulaic recipe.Anyway, I’m happy to say that their songs sound as good live as they do on their albums–which I find is often a conventional indicator of any band’s ability to walk the talk.

They opened with “I Can See Through You”–an angry, incredibly loud love song, that combines post-punk lead guitar lines with various iconic, 80’s-esque synthy arpeggios (think “Bizarre Love Triangle”).  The evening progressed from there, with most of the work off their newest album Skying including “Still Life”, which I think is the track that best (and perhaps singularly) captures the above-described conceit with which they began making albums, as well as “You Said”, which to me, points to where they may be venturing next: a bigger, more ethereal and instrumentally complex sound that still maintains its basic foundations as music that induces profound nostalgia. For what? Who knows. Most of us–including these guys– weren’t around then…

The Horrors: Still Life