By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
In the backward chronology of a group that writes its theme song before establishing its theme, Kill the Vultures' magic shrinking fan base seems almost natural. Then again, while lines like "The last look she gave was a circling vulture/The kind that waits till you're dead to insult ya" aren't exactly a party, they're not inaccessible, either. Given an adjustment period, crowds are likely to be shouldering their way to the front of a Kill the Vultures stage. And they'll have their hands in the air, singing along to "The Vultures," knowing the song by heart.
No, not the song. The anthem.
In May of '05 this paper named Chariots "Best Local Punk Band," partly because "Best Local Indie/Punk/Metal/Do These Distinctions Really Matter? Band" seemed cumbersome. See, they've got a frenetic energy that's bona fide punk, but they're not shy around metal guitar tones--then again, most metal bands don't truck in the choppy, drum-heavy squall of Chariots' "The Laundry Room in This Building Is Equipped with a Burglar Alarm." Which song title skews toward the art-punk wing of indie, as does the group's look and wit, except nothing about them is nerdy-college-boyish. They're menacing, actually, both in their live show and on their debut CD, Congratulations, which obliterates all the categorical divisions you can muster like hacksaw through crepe paper.
The title track is just one example: Though we've heard the pleasantry laced with sarcasm nearly as often as we've seen it misspelled with a "d," it never carried the threat it does as contorted and distorted by singer Travis Bos. On "Twister Party Fails to Get Dirty"--should the band thing fizzle, there's a future for these guys at the Onion--Bos's keyboard becomes a haunted-house organ and the background vocals seem to come from the depths of hell (or some other dark place where erotic youth games are completely forbidden). "Nouveau Riche" has the band angry and quite worked up, with sawing guitars (and maybe an actual saw) backing sputtering, echoing screams. And while "Silver Tongue" finds a fast, punk tempo led by Matt Kepler's drums, "Number One with a Bullet" at times plods pleasurably at Sabbath pace.
All of which would argue for not changing a thing, but of course that plan never works out. While the band remains a four-piece (it took four horses to pull a chariot), they have been mutating a bit as of late. In June, Blain Finders replaced Arthur Gandy on bass. Then, just over a week ago, guitar player Eric Odness moved to New York. Bos says the band will continue with the current personnel, long distance, with a tour looming in November, which will also be when their next local show takes place.
So where would Bos file Chariots? "I wouldn't categorize us as punk, necessarily," he says, referring to the previous CP award. "But of course it's flattering and nice to get any of that kind of attention." (Next year: Chariots as Best Bluegrass band by a mile.) And while he admits that "some of the band" may have been influenced by metal, they certainly don't fit in that pigeonhole. "I think of us as more of a rock band, really," he says with a laugh. Exactly.
All-Time Greatest Sibling Acts:
3. Big Quarters
4. The Shaggs
Five Fun Facts About My Brother (Michael Gaughan):
1. He was the speaker at his MCAD graduation
2. He's vegan
3. He broke his arm lip-synching
4. He has a pet chameleon named Charles
5. He rode around in a golf cart with Mike Ditka
Five Fun Facts About My Sister (Katie Gaughan):
1. She is an amazing Irish step-dancer
2. She loves kayaking and being in nature
3. She can speak Spanish
4. She was an extra in Bill Murray's Groundhog Day
5. She's vegan
Someday We Hope to Perform at the Following Venues:
1. In a world with no wars or poverty
2. On a half-pipe made of mirrors
3. Atop the highest tower of Amp Castle
4. As the musical guest on SNL
5. At a party
Five Favorite Albums of the '90s:
1. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Brother for Sale, 50 Cents (Lightyear)
2. Hulk Hogan and the Wrestling Boot Band, Hulk Rules (Select Records)
3. "Weird Al" Yankovic, Off the Deep End (Scotti Bros.)
4. CB4: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCA)
5. Slaughter, Stick It to Ya (Capitol)
If Yo La Tengo has it, as their name implies, Duplomacy wants it. The dream-pop quintet, helmed by singer/songwriter Andy Flynn (formerly of Valender), specializes in the same brand of nodding guitar lullabies that turned Hoboken, New Jersey's favorite band into mix-tape mainstays and college radio legends. And like that group, which Flynn himself cites as an influence, Duplomacy demands attention not with high-octane live shows or osten-tatious compositions, but with deceptively simple songs.