Show review: Maudlin CD release w/ The Hopefuls, So It Goes

Maudlin rocks out

Maudlin CD Release with So It Goes and The Hopefuls
Nov. 26, 2008 @ The Triple Rock.

While a good percentage of the city was either rocking out to Ike Reilly or getting blind drunk in preparation for a long, dysfunctional Thanksgiving Day (or possibly both), the Triple Rock Social Club became local power-pop heaven for a few hours Wednesday night. You can say what you will about this type of music, but as much as it's nice to be completely caught off guard by a band it's also nice sometimes to have a general idea of what you're getting yourself into--and then still be surprised a few times during the course of the evening. Local up-and-comers Maudlin were hosting the release of their self-released sophomore CD, "Maudlin and the Second Law of Thermodynamics" and could hardly have picked more perfect bands to help them out than So It Goes and The Hopefuls.

So It Goes

There seems to be a plethora of neo-new wave bands of late in this city. Original new wave encompassed a wide swath of bands that ran the gamut from mopey and dark like Echo & the Bunnymen to glossy and upbeat like Duran Duran. So It Goes follow more in the footsteps of the latter with a good dose of Gang of Four in the mix. They toe an odd-looking line between new wave and post-punk and it seems to work pretty well. Lead singer Adam Gislason looked like he was feeling no pain from the stage (hey, it was the day before Thanksgiving after all) and speaking of Gislason, he displays a bit of a disconnect. He's engaging and funny from stage but is dressed a little to much like 1983 fand it can be a bit distracting with the bandana tied around the random ankle and the glammy sunglasses. Sure, rock 'n roll needs theater but he seems like he's dressed for Halloween and it's magnified by the fact that the rest of the band isn't. But So It Goes are an otherwise enjoyable listen, the mix of poppy synth flourishes and angular guitar riffs make you want to do nothing but dance until the rush of endorphins makes you feel bulletproof.

The Hopefuls


Maudlin, meanwhile, recalls the '90s without spewing up the grunge thing -- reminding  of everything great about the '90s but not the faddish, sludgy areas that sound so dated now. Maudlin's debut disc had a few holes here and there, but Second Law is tighter than a drum, better production, better lyrics, catchier hooks--the works. They're not following trends and they don't seem to have an agenda that extends beyond wanting to play live music in any arena offered to them. David and Priscilla Priebe traded vocal duties during the set -- he sounding equally ready for a fight or a therapy session (to say nothing of the giddy, celebratory manner in which guitar he smashed to pieces at the set's denouement) and she sounding like a less heroin-addicted Kim Deal. Drummer Jason Nelson assaulted his drums like he needed an excuse for a new kit and was drenched in sweat by the close of the set--these guys want something not necessarily from the audience but certainly from themselves, it seems.

The Hopefuls don't play live as much as many fans would like them to. They are all in different bands aside from this one (Kid Dakota, The Beatifics, etc.) and are just busy most of the time which is a shame. The Hopefuls are the musical equivalent of E85 fuel: it's clean-burning, more efficient and just generally makes you feel better about yourself when you use it even if you can't explain all of the reasons why that might be. They're the first band of many that makes unironic use of a keytar (simultaneously the most fun and most ridiculous looking instrument on the planet), and the overall aesthetic is that of Weezer before they started to lose friends and aggravate people. Lead Hopeful Darren Jackson has a voice that is unassuming and likes to tell stories and I defy anyone to not catch themselves at least tapping their feet with a smile on their face as they play "Virgin Wood". Most Hopefuls songs have a similar shape: there is nothing inherently special about it but like The New Pornographers and Matthew Sweet, you somehow can't listen to it enough, attempting to sear every note into your grey matter.

Power pop gets a bad rap in certain circles but it's is an unassuming genre, it rarely tries to be something that it isn't or more than the sum of it's parts--it is what it is but sometimes that's more than enough. It's nice when you listen to something and don't have to try so hard to make yourself like it, and warming up to these three bands was no more difficult than simply breathing while watching it.

-- Pat O'Brien