Saturday, January 24, 2009

Raveonettes and Nickel Eye at Paradise.

Just before this gig started, I passed distinctively chiseled Strokes’ bass player, and front man of Nickel Eye, Nikolai Fraiture, coming out of the bathroom at the Paradise. Just a little star-struck, I mumbled “have a good show” to him, and he thanked me casually, before disappearing backstage.

I really meant it too. But just a few minutes later, as Nickel Eye ran through some of the songs they have been playing around the country from their upcoming first album, “The Time of the Assassins,” I had changed my tune completely. By that point I had stood listening to them wander through track after track, looking, frankly, like they might fall asleep on stage. This is not a criticism of their music particularly (although I wasn’t taken with it – it was weak and generally lacking in drive), but of their incredible complacency. I have rarely seen a band apparently less interested in an audience’s opinion of them. I suppose that’s what they call ‘cool’ in musical circles. Nikolai sang “Don’t let them get you down,” and I suppose I am now the object of his statement. So be it – the band can’t be given a free pass to ‘phone it in,’ on the basis of the momentum they have gathered from Nikolai‘s past life.

The Raveonettes, who followed them, are cool in quite different terms. Their style, melding 50s harmonies and guitar drenched in spring reverb with massive bass and screaming noise-core distortion is still fresh and engaging, even after several years at what many critics label the cutting-edge. A friend who came to the show with me argued afterwards that they are not so new as they might want us to believe – that bands like Suicide have been over this ground before.

Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps this incarnation of ‘cool’ has overcome my judgment. I could tell they wanted to keep up appearances for the crowd when singer Sharin Foo broke at our applause, from her sultry passivity, into a smile. She looked like she had given something away – a secret that, perhaps she feared would damage their dark image. A secret that they really do care what we think, and that they need us.

How ‘uncool,’ and how endearing.

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