Thursday night at Local 269 began auspiciously with Tracy Island, the new project from Ian Roure and Liza Garelik Roure of the Larch (who have a reputedly excellent and far more psychedelic album than their usual literate, new wave-ish fare due out soon). This new band – a duo at this point – seems to be the newest edition of Liza & the WonderWheels, who had a good run through the zeros as wiseass psychedelic popsters. Jauntily and methodically, they made their way through a mix of new songs and old favorites, voices and guitars hypnotically intertwining, Liza’s casual jangle and percussive riffage against Ian’s precise chords, terse accents and the occasional lickety-split wah-wah solo. The most stunning song of the bunch was a newer one, Cold Wind, which took on an unexpected gravitas and ominous majesty. Another especially interesting, and insightful moment was when they took Lou Reed’s Caroline Says back in time to the folky jangle of the Velvets’ third album – which is probably how Reed intended it, considering how vociferously he’s disowned Bob Ezrin’s production on the Berlin album.
An older song dating from Liza’s days as the leader of a band from the Continental scene – it’s hard to imagine this meticulously jangly couple on that overamped stage! – had a paisley underground Rain Parade/Mazzy Star vibe; one of the newer ones brought a Spanking Charlene punk-pop defiance. Nebulous verses built to harder-hitting, sometimes apprehensive choruses, best exemplified by the offhandedly dismissive No Exceptions, a track from the WonderWheels’ 2006 album Meet the Animal. Newer flavors appeared as well, particularly a slow, resolute, twangy southwestern gothic anthem. It became obvious early on that they’ve got plenty of material for an album, however they decide to do it, as a duo or with a full band.
Paula Carino and her band were next on the bill. NYMD’s sister blog rated her album Open on Sunday as the best one of 2010. Interestingly, this show went light on that material, heavy on both the very recent and also the deep-space edge of Carino’s consistently brilliant, tuneful catalog. This version of the band – Carino on Strat and vocals, Dave Benjoya on lead guitar, Andy Mattina on bass and Nancy Polstein on drums (and vocals on an irresistible, bluegrass-tinged version of Rise und Shine, from Carino’s classic 2003 Aquacade album) – roared more than it soared, mangled more than it jangled.
The opening song, Bad Actor rampaged like the early Jam. The tensely biting, bittersweet Never Saw It Coming, Carino’s reflection on the loss of her dad a couple of years ago, switched tempos artfully. Maybe because the guitars were so loud, maybe because the songs simply demanded it, Carino reached beyond her usual plush, velvety alto delivery with a raw insistence through the cold ending of the dead-end narrative Jimmyville and then an especially amped version of the pulsing Tip of the Iceberg, which as Carino explained, is about the subconscious: “Tip of the iceberg, meet your bottom half,” she intoned, cool and deadpan, letting the image speak for itself.
Chimp Haven burned slowly and ominously, with a poisonously serpentine Benjoya solo, followed by the irrepressible bounce of 3 Legged Race and then a surprisingly subdued version of the elegantly lyrical, aphoristic Paleoclimatology: “Let it go, that ancient snow that wrecked Tyrannosaurus,” Carino purred. They picked up the pace with the haphazardly shuffling Queen’s Tornado, backed off with the slow, brooding I Want Mars, an older song with the same sense of longing if not any melodic resemblance to the Bowie song about that planet. They wrapped up the show with a careening version of Mayor Beam, a wickedly catchy, off-center 80s-inflected janglerock number, and then the big audience hit Robots, a deviously shapeshifting Twilight Zone pop song.
The rest of the night was tantalizing: Out of Order, who’d transcended 112-degree heat to play an even more scorching set a couple of weeks previously at the East River Bandshell, were also on the bill, as were the K’s. Sadly, in this music blogging “business,” sticking around for an entire quadruplebill isn’t always in the cards. Watch this space for upcoming shows.