When the Firebird announced the Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin / Telekinesis show several months back, one couldn't help but wonder why these bands haven't joined forces already. Both serve up indelible, candy-coated power pop; both have received quite a bit of blogger buzz; and both of them just worked with indie rock's version of King Midas, studio wiz Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie). The only real concern going into the show was whether one could take in so much sugary goodness without going into a diabetic coma.
Hailing from Seattle, Washington, Michael Benjamin Lerner (singer, drummer) brought his most current edition of Telekinesis ("Telekinesis 3.0," as he quipped) to St. Louis. The band lineup was entirely different band from the one which graced Off Broadway's stage in June of 2009. Considering it was only the third show with this lineup, the three-piece (featuring Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers/Jaguar Love on guitar/vocals) sounded airtight. Presenting the drummer as the front man is always tough, but Telekinesis has it down pat -- so much so that when Lerner actually stepped out from behind the kit to sing and play guitar, a bit of the mounting energy was lost.
The band performed as many new, unreleased songs as it did older material. And at first blush, Telekinesis 3.0 has sped up its sound a little since its eponymously-named debut album (Telekinesis!). It's traded in breezy (yet jolting) indie glean for faster-paced power pop. It's no wonder Merge Records label head, and Superchunk leader, Mac McCaughan has taken interest: Think of a more refined, but still punchy, Superchunk with less guitar noodling and just as many hooks. After taking a minute to catch his breath and discuss the "phantom piano" track they were trying to set up (which was initially "attacked by Klingons") the trio closed out the set in fine fashion, banging out three of its more popular -- and well-received -- songs of the night: "Dirty Things," "Tokyo" and "Coast of Carolina."
Bearing one of the most polarizing names in modern rock, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin sheepishly climbed on stage with enough boyish charm to make Opie Taylor weep. The Springfield quartet opened the set with "Banned By the Man," an exuberant power-pop cut laced with nagging guitars and infectious "na na na['s]." Listening to the new album, and after taking in Tuesday night's set, you get the sense that SSLBY is really settling in the pocket. The dependable hooks have been there from the beginning, but three full lengths into its career, Boris seems more comfortable in its own skin and more inclined to rely on sturdy rock than trying to cater to the neo-indie crowd.
The set mostly consisted of songs from its newest release, Let it Sway, and 2008's Pershing. Singer John Caldwell's falsetto cry carried just as well through the half-full Firebird as it does on album. This became evident on "Think I Wanna Die" and its new stomp-and-clap banger, "Back in the Saddle." The band's comfort and precision came to full light on "Some Constellation," as the locked-in, building groove and lush harmonies showcased Boris doing exactly what it does best.
About two-thirds of the way through the set, the band switched up instruments, which allowed Phil Dickey (drums, singer, guitar) step out from behind the kit and belt out some songs of his own. While the set list offered plenty of enjoyable moments, longtime live staple "Oregon Girl" was noticeably absent. Fan favorites "Modern Mystery" and new single, "Sink/Let it Sway" certainly made up for it though, as the band managed to churn out a rather enjoyable set.
Other notes: *Local indie folkers Union Tree Review played a short, sweet set, and from what little I heard, the band sounded good. It'll be interesting to hear their take on the Postal Service at An Under Cover Weekend on September 10 at the Firebird.
*God bless both Telekinesis and SSLYBY but their members are almost too damn wholesome and cheery to be in a rock band.
*Feel free to fill in any gaps I may have missed in the set list.
Setlist Banned By the Man Think I Wanna Die Pangea Some Constellation Evelyn Glue Girls ? Made to Last House Fire Back in the Saddle Let it Sway In Pairs Dead Right Modern Mystery All Hail Dracula!