Thursday, June 15, 2006

Band of Horses, Beirut - Intimations that All's Well with the World

The peaks and valleys of great musical finds tired me to the point of retirement a few years ago. I've taken the odd suggestion here and there on a purchase, but spend most of my time listening to tried and true Tom Waits albums, or lately, stuff more in a classical vein. The total absence of a capable sense of lyric-concoction among bands has been my biggest stumbling block ... Which is all to say that it is pure chance that I now find myself, delightedly, atop one of those elusive--I was beginning to think perhaps only ever imagined--peaks.

Really, it's all because I've been in such a College Street mood the last couple of months--you can't help but find yourself strolling into Soundscapes' welcoming salon, ready to defer to the tastes plugged into the various listening stations they have there. The tiniest bit cloying, but the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or the latent promise of a band like Loose Fur got the old juices going. When I found Band of Horses I had the distinct feeling that here was something special. I won't pretend that I have the musicophile's sensitivities to describe what exactly it is that they do and why it seems to me that they do it so well. Suffice it to say that I couldn't stop listening to the album once I'd got it and even went so far as to buy tickets (the wife did, anyway) for a performance they were giving at Lee's Palace, two nights ago now.

I refuse to risk spoiling something as phenomenal as the performance they gave that night with any attempts at embellishment. Two performances (indeed, five, as I've seen the former three times, the latter twice) stick out in my mind as being damnably near untopable: Leslie Feist, and the absurdly obscure Clinic ... But walking out of the sweltering confines of Lee's Tuesday night I felt (disconcertingly--as Feist and Clinic really are brilliant, and because I'm getting just too old to be putting matters so sophomorically) as though I could leap over both bands to get just one more set with BoH.

Ben Bridwell--the singer--strikes me as something nearing the status of a phenomenon. A kind of hillbilly dandy, he trills through perfectly imperfect teeth, walks with one of those ugly, aluminum orthopedic canes (suggesting a genuine need for what is, otherwise, so clichéd a prop), and is covered in--so incongruous, yet somehow so complimentary of his musical stylishness-- homemade tatoos of the arrow-through-heart "MOM" variety. The second he limped on stage[1] to provide back-up vocals for the opening band (called Mt. Egypt--strangely consisting of the same drummer and bashful bass player from BoH, but with the addition of a very eccentric seeming chap, Travis, on guitar and singing ... Again, latent potential, but excessively cloying) you got the sense that something perhaps remarkable was about to happen. When he hit that first high note, the unbearable heat of the room became suddenly bearable, my aching back serene, the chunk of hamburger lodged in my gut from a typically awful meal at Pauper's reduced to irrelevance ... But there I go embellishing.

Such has been the effect of all this that I find myself only too willing to shell out money I don't have for albums on the off chance that my luck might not have run out. And see: it hasn't. Behold, Beirut's
Gulag Orkestar!

[1] The cane, obviously, never made its way on stage with him. We happened to run into the band as we were leaving a nearby bar an hour or so after the show had ended--as they themselves were just coming out of Lee's--and noticed it then.